Read Along,  Show Notes

Episode 158: Introduction to Aristotle’s “Poetics”

On this episode of The Literary Life podcast, our hosts Angelina Stanford, Cindy Rollins, and Thomas Banks open a new series of discussions about Aristotle’s work on story, Poetics. After sharing this week’s commonplace quotes, Thomas gives us some background on Aristotle and his time. Angelina points out the importance of differentiating between Aristotle’s work Rhetoric and Poetics and how they are applied. She and Thomas also talk about the problem of translating the Greek word “mimesis.” They discuss Aristotle’s thoughts on the characters in comedy and tragedy, as well as the complex concept of “arete.”

Thomas will be teaching a webinar on Jean Jacques Rousseau on February 24th. You can learn more and register at

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Commonplace Quotes:

The supreme imaginative literature of the world is a survival of the fittest ink blots of the ages, and nothing reveals a man with more precision than his reaction to it.

The men who have loved Shakespeare best and have kept him most alive have all been Cadwals.

Harold Goddard

When we are young we all think we are going to remake the world…But in the end it is the world which remakes most of us.

Bruce Marshall

It is astonishing how little attention critics have paid to Story considered in itself. Granted the story, the style in which it should be told, the order in which it should be disposed, and (above all) the delineation of the characters, have been abundantly discussed. But the Story itself, the series of imagined events, is nearly always passed over in silence, or else treated exclusively as affording opportunities for the delineations of character. There are indeed three notable exceptions. Aristotle in the Poetics constructed a theory of Greek tragedy which puts Story in the centre and relegates character to a strictly subordinate place. In the Middle Ages and the early Renaissance, Boccaccio and others developed an allegorical theory of Story to explain the ancient myths. And in our own time Jung and his followers have produced their doctrine of Archetypes. Apart from these three attempts the subject has been left almost untouched…

C. S. Lewis

The Dead of Athens at Chalcis

by Simonides, trans. by F. L. Lucas

We died in the glen of Dirphys.

Here by our country’s giving

This tomb was heaped above us high on Euripus’ shore.

Twas earned, for young we lost the loveliness of living.

We took instead upon us the bursting storm of war.

Book List:

The Meaning of Shakespeare, Vol. 1 by Harold Goddard

The Fair Bride by Bruce Marshall

On Stories by C. S. Lewis

Northrop Frye

Tom Jones by Henry Fielding

Pamela by Samuel Richardson (not recommended)

An Experiment in Criticism by C. S. Lewis

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