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Between Ecstasy and TruthInterpretations of Greek Poetics from Homer to Longinus$
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Stephen Halliwell

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199570560

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199570560.001.0001

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Aristotle and the Experience of Tragic Emotion

Aristotle and the Experience of Tragic Emotion

(p.208) 5 Aristotle and the Experience of Tragic Emotion
Between Ecstasy and Truth

Stephen Halliwell

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that Aristotle's theory of tragedy in the Poetics incorporates a model of ‘emotional understanding’: understanding filtered through the affective and evaluative responses embodied in emotions. The Poetics treats the defining experience of tragedy as involving a concentrated surge of pity and fear, but it ties these emotions to the audience's cognitive grasp of the unified patterns of human action represented in plot-structures. In the second half of the chapter it is maintained, partly with the help of Politics 8, that catharsis can best be interpreted as the psychological benefit arising from the conversion of painful into pleasurable emotions through an aesthetic experience of mimetic representation or expression. An appendix analyses and rejects two recent attempts to prove the catharsis clause in the Poetics an interpolation.

Keywords:   action, catharsis, cognition, emotion, emotional understanding, mimesis, Poetics, Politics, tragedy

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