Tragic Pleasures: Aristotle on Plot and Emotion


Apr 19, 2016
6 x 9 in.
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Elizabeth Belfiore offers a striking new interpretation of Aristotle’s Poetics by situating the work within the Aristotelian corpus and in the context of Greek culture in general. In Aristotle’s Rhetoric, the Politics, and the ethical, psychological, logical, physical, and biological works, Belfiore finds extremely important but largely neglected sources for understanding the elliptical statements in the Poetics. The author argues that these Aristotelian texts, and those of other ancient writers, call into question the traditional view that katharsis in the Poetics is a homeopathic process—one in which pity and fear affect emotions like themselves. She maintains, instead, that Aristotle considered katharsis to be an allopathic process in which pity and fear purge the soul of shameless, antisocial, and aggressive emotions. While exploring katharsis, Tragic Pleasures analyzes the closely related question of how the Poetics treats the issue of plot structure. In fact, Belfiore’s wide-ranging work eventually discusses every central concept in the Poetics, including imitation, pity and fear, necessity and probability, character, and kinship relations.

Originally published in 1992.

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