Aristotle and Literary Criticism. Aristotle. One of the earliest attempts to explain what makes an effective or ineffective piece of literature was a book by Greek philosopher, Aristotle, entitled Poetics . Elements of Literature.
One of the earliest attempts to explain what makes an effective or ineffective piece of literature was a book by Greek philosopher, Aristotle, entitled Poetics.
To help authors achieve their objectives, Aristotle developed elements of organization and methods for writing poetry, drama, and stories.
Aristotle believed that elements like "...language, rhythm, and harmony..." as well as "...plot, character, thought, diction, and spectacle..." influence the audience's catharsis (pity and fear) and satisfaction with the work. And so here we see one of the earliest attempts to explain what makes an effective or ineffective work of literature.
Socrates was Plato’s teacher and Plato taught Aristotle.
Socrates Plato Aristotle
Plato believed that a great work of literature occurs when a writer is hit with divine inspiration.
Aristotle agreed that inspiration is important but insisted that great art is planned and crafted. He believed that there are patterns and basic rules that great writers use.
Plato taught that a hero in a story should be a character of complete moral virtue and goodness.
Aristotle broke with his teacher on this by saying that the effective hero is a character who lies somewhere between virtue and villain and who must make make choices between the two extremes.
Aristotle believed that the best written hero in a tragedy must have a fatal flaw – or basically make an error so bad that it leads to his downfall. This is called the hero’s hamartia.
According to Aristotle, a great tragedy leaves an audience with the experience of catharsis – the process of feeling extreme negative emotions (sadness, pity, and fear). By the end, having gone through these strong emotions with the main characters, readers actually rid themselves of some of those emotions. This process helps an audience “cleanse” themselves of their own unpleasant feelings.
Think of one significant way in which Greek philosophers have influenced the mindset of contemporary Americans.