Tapping the wellsprings of action: Aristotle's birth of tragedy as a mimesis of poetic praxis

In Bruce M. King & Doherty Lillian (eds.), Thinking the Greeks: A Volume in Honour of James M. Redfield. London and New York: pp. 70-90 (2018)
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This essay offers an interpretation of Aristotle’s account of the birth of tragedy (Poetics 1448b18–1449a15) as a mimesis of poetic praxis. The workings of this passage emerge when read in connection with ring composition in Homeric speeches, and further unfold through a comparison with the Shield of Achilles and with an ode from Euripides’ Heracles. Aristotle appears to draw upon a traditional pattern enacting cyclical rebirth or revitalization. It is suggested that his puzzling insistence on “one complete action” in plot is bound up with moment-to-moment performance. The poetics of Aristotle’s account suggest a pedagogy of mimesis.

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Katherine Kretler
Stanford University


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