Aristotle’s Poetics

Stephen Halliwell, Aristotle’s Poetics (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986)

This useful book, an extended study of the Poetics, treats such subjects as Aristotle’s general aesthetic views; mimesis; pity, fear, and katharsis; recognition, reversal, and hamartia; tragic misfortune; the non-tragic genres; and the historical influence of the work.

Aristotle emerges as holding a deeply cognitivist view of poetry and as rejecting the attempt to judge art primarily by external (e.g., moral, political) criteria; his call for the relative autonomy of art, however, neither commits him to an aestheticist view nor prevents him from attributing to art a significant moral dimension. Halliwell’s attempts to keep Plato in close view and to keep the Poetics within the context of Aristotle’s philosophy as a whole are illuminating.