Study Questions and Essay Topics
How does Aristotle's definition of "poetry" differ from our own? What problems do you perceive in the limitations set by Aristotle's definition?
Explain Aristotle's concept of mimesis. In what way is poetry imitative? Why, according to Aristotle are we naturally disposed toward imitation? Do you agree with his arguments?
What is katharsis? How does it work in the context of tragedy? What purpose does it serve?
Suggested Essay Topics
What does it mean to say that a plot must have a beginning, middle, and end? Is such tight structuring is always necessary to a good plot?
How do peripeteia and anagnorisis contribute to a good tragedy? How necessary are they to a successful plot?
Compare and contrast the Greek notion of hamartia with our modern conceptions of guilt and moral failure. Can we still understand Greek tragedy with such a different moral worldview?
To what extent are Aristotle's remarks on character universally applicable, and to what extent do they reflect the tastes and social structure of his day?
What, according to Aristotle, is the primary purpose of tragedy? What problems might there be with this point of view?
Compare and contrast epic poetry and tragedy. What do they share in common? What are the differences? To what extent do you think they can be judged according to the same criteria?
Are Aristotle's arguments in favor of tragedy over epic poetry convincing? Why or why not?
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