In this, the fullest, sustained interpretation of Aristotle's Poetics available in English, Stephen Halliwell demonstrates that the Poetics, despite its laconic brevity, is a coherent statement of a challenging theory of poetic art, and it hints towards a theory of mimetic art in general. Assessing this theory against the background of earlier Greek views on poetry and art, particularly Plato's, Halliwell goes further than any previous author in setting Aristotle's ideas in the wider context of his philosophical system.
The core of the book is a fresh appraisal of Aristotle's view of tragic drama, in which Halliwell contends that at the heart of the Poetics lies a philosophical urge to instill a secularized understanding of Greek tragedy.
"Essential reading not only for all serious students of the Poetics . . . but also for those—the great majority—who have prudently fought shy of it altogether."—B. R. Rees, Classical Review
"A splendid work of scholarship and analysis . . . a brilliant interpretation."—Alexander Nehamas, Times Literary Supplement
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 nontragic 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. For academic collections. Richard Hogan, Philosophy Dept., Southeastern Massachusetts Univ., N. Dartmouth