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Tragedy – BA 1st year | TU notes

Table of Contents

Subject: Major Eng (Eng. 311)

Level: B.A. 1st year

Tragedy

Questions Answer

Rhetorical Strategies:

  1. In “Aristotelian Literary Criticism” (Preface to Aristotle’s Theory of Poetry and Fine Art, [New York: Dover, 1951]). John Gassner wrote:

The Poetics is the first extant essay on art that is honestly exploratory. Such criticism was unusual in Aristotle’s time, and it continued to be rare long after his death when he was considered the supreme arbiter in esthetic judgement. It is, indeed, one of the ironies of history that Aristotle’s admires from the sixteenth to the history that Aristotle’s admirers form the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries should have tried to convert the explorer into absolute lawmaker. It was their chief ambition, next to that of establishing themselves as legislators, too, by standing under the ample shadow of the great man’s reputation. (xxxix)

Gassner feels that Aristotle was writing exploratory discourse; he was suggesting ways to describe e or think about Aristotle’s suggestions into rules or critics who followed turned said that a play would have more unity if its event took place within 24 hours and the action occurred in a single place. Later, some critics assumed that a tragedy was flawed if it violated the unities of time and place.

Do you agree with Gassner? Do you feel that Aristotle’s poetics is exploratory? Does Aristotle seem to make suggestions or pronounce rules and laws? Select portions of the text to back up your analysis.

Ans: Yes, I agree with Gassner. Aristotle’s Poetics is exploratory because it is still the subject of discovery and research. Like Gassner, I believe that Aristotle seems to make only suggestions. He does not mean to pronounce rules and laws. He is only descriptive regarding unity of action, time, and place, principle of necessity, probability and other features of tragedy. In the course of time, neo-classical theorists from sixteenth to eighteenth century, especially like John Dryden, and Alexander Pope developed Aristotelian notion of tragedy. Many philosopher and critic believe that prescriptive reading of Aristotle is somewhat fault done by rigid neo-classical theorists. Let’s analyze this portion from the text to back up this analysis:

  • In tragedy, however, they still adhere to the historic names; and for this reason: what convinces is the possibility of that which has not happened, that which has happened is manifestly possible, otherwise it would not happened. Nevertheless even in tragedy there are some plays with but one or two known names in them, the rest being inventions; and there are some without a single known name, e.g. Agathon’sAntheus in which both incidents and names are of the poet’s invention; and it is no less delightful on that account. So that one must not aim at a rigid adherence to the traditional stories on which tragedies are based. It would be absurd, in fact, to do so, as even the known stories are only known to a few, though they are a delight none the less to all.

Explanaion:

Here, in the above portion cited from the essay implies that Aristotle is not rigid in terms of the choice of the subject matter. According to rigid rule of Tragedy, there is the adherence to the historic names but Aristotle is of the view that we can take the names which is convincing and possible. In this exploratory essay, he examines that there are only few known names but others are only inventions that there are only few known names but others are only inventions. He gives he example of Agathon’sAntheus in which both incidents and names are of the poet’s inventions. He is even not hard and fast about the adherence to the traditional stories on which tragedies are based. He examines that there might be problem while using known stories without the delight. In this way, it is clear that Aristotle’s poetics is exploratory.

  1. The text of Aristotle’s apparently comes from either his lecture notes or his students’ transactions of his lectures. In what ways does this text resemble lecture notes that were not polished and revised for publication?

Ans: Aristotle’s poetics is an not an easy work to read and interpret. The text of Aristotle’s Poetic apparently comes from either his lecture notes or his students’ transcriptions of his lectures. Therefore, most of the time, it is incomplete, and sketchy. For example, a long section on comedy was apparently lost. Aristotle also refers in passing to dramas that have not survived. His students and intended audience were probably familiar with these dramas, but modern readers can, at times, feel lost amidst comments about plays that can be nothing more than unclear titles. In the essay, we can exactly located the resemblance of lecture notes that were not polished and revised for publication. The use of ellipsis (…) at the end of several paragraphs indicates that these are the omission of words from speech or writing. For example, see 1st, 2nd and 10th paragraphs, where transcriber either missed the words or did not want to write. Despite of this, almost all the paragraphs are sketchy and incomplete.

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