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Poetics (Dover Thrift Editions) Paperback – March 12, 1997
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Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Greek
From the Back Cover
Aristotle's Poetics is one of the most powerful, perceptive and influential works of criticism in Western literary history. A penetrating, near-contemporary account of Greek tragedy, it demonstrates how the elements of plot, character and spectacle combine to produce 'pity and fear' - and why we derive pleasure from this apparently painful process. It introduces the crucial concepts of mimesis ('imitation'), hamartia ('error') and katharsis, which have informed serious thinking about drama ever since. It examines the mythological heroes, idealized yet true to life, whom Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides brought on to the stage. And it explains how the most effective plays rely on complication and resolution, recognitions and reversals. Essential reading for all students of Greek literature and of the many Renaissance and post-Renaissance writers who consciously adopted Aristotle as a model, the Poetics is equally stimulating for anyone interested in theatre today.
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Top Customer Reviews
First, the translation:
No nits to pick here. It is very clear and readable. This isn't Aristotle at his most refined, but the translation should be accesible to anyone with the interest in reading it. Halliwell hasn't shied away from the overtly normative language that permeates the text, nor has he attempted to inject more structure or content than the text can bear.
Given that the commentary is (apparently) geared to folks with an interest in contemporary aesthetics, it is nice to see that Halliwell has not colored the text in a way that might be more palatable to the contemporary aesthetician. A few passages sent me scrambling for the OCT, but I always ended up happy with Halliwell's rendering.
Two notes: 1) Halliwell has opted for "mimesis" and "mimetic" throughout. This is a case of a philosophical concept in transliteration rather than translation, but probably ought to be. This choice, and a few others, make the text more appropriate for the academically minded, though the Poetics might not be leisurely reading anyhow...and 2) Halliwell's translation does not include Bekker pages nor numbers. Chapter breaks are included but are of limited usefulness for reference to the OCT, etc.
Then, the commentary:
I should admit that I am not the target audience for Halliwell's commentary. I would be an embarrassingly bad classicist, if I were to claim to be one...and I am not independently interested in contemporary aesthetics. That being the case, the commentary might be quite useful for other readers. Halliwell raises interesting points quite often and points up tensions in Aristotle's view writ large, but often misses the trees for the forest. Late in the book, admittedly where the lack of book II is most glaring, Aristotle introduces new machinery or recalls distinctions hastily made. Halliwell is silent here, perhaps because he just isn't interested in this fine-grained a reading...but that seems like just what a commentary ought to be interested in. One major issue is that the commentary occasionally reads like an argumentative essay - an argument for Halliwell's reading - but doesn't seem particularly well argued. Early assumptions are taken for granted in later chapters, etc.
Since I am almost positive that Halliwell has other folks in mind, and since my interests might be especially idiosyncratic anyway, I have tried not to let my thoughts on the commentary cloud the overall review...
The bottom line: if you're looking for just a translation of the Poetics, this won't disappoint. I can't compare it directly to other translations, but it is accesible and I didn't find much to quibble with when I turned to the OCT. The commentary isn't, and doesn't pretend to be, a concentrated analysis of the philosophical framework on offer. It is an interesting essay on the development of aesthetics, the bridge between Aristotle and contemporary thinkers, and is probably quite full of material that would interest classicists and aestheticians. I can't really fault the commentary for having a different aim than I had hoped, and one need not refer to it besides.
For the student of Aristotle, someone interested in aesthetics and wanting to read this foundational treatise, or someone interested in the history of philosophy (or thinking in general), I think this translation will certainly meet your needs.
I first read "Aristotle's Poetics" by S. H. Butcher and Francis Fergusson; an absolutely terrible translation.
Then I read "The Art of Poetry" by Ingram Bywater (a free translation of Aristotle's Poetics). It has a decent preface, but the translation was crabbed and stilted (although better than the one above).
After reading everything I could find online concerning The Poetics (Wikipedia, Spark Notes, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, etc.) the material was still floating around a bit vaguely in my mind. So I decided to purchased this latest translation and read the original again.
This translation is the one that should be in classrooms and read by screenwriters, etc. etc.
This is comparable to the NIV translation of the Bible as contrasted with the KJV. First time readers of the Poetics should begin here.
I am a writer, and since a few years I've switched towards writing for movies screens. English is not my mother language, so that's my excuss for bad spelling or grammar. Anyhow, the reasson why I gave four stars, is because of the sticky way of my reading in the content of the book.
As I wrote above, English is not my mother tongue, and so I had made a long reading through this book.
But as for me, it helps to give my character a better mantaince on the pages of my script: Poetics define the nature of morale in a character by the way way he is found to be in a place, dnd not where he says he shall be...
The old To be or not to be line is finaly adapted in my way of thinking. More than I could describe what it is worth to know where Shakespear is comming from, I hope that my review lift a tip of the veil, if you are still in doubt to be purchasing or not to be purchasing...