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Malm, Mats
The Soul of Poetry Redefined
Vacillations of Mimesis from Aristotle to Romanticism

2012, 256 s., indb
ISBN 978-87-635-3742-1


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What is the soul of poetry? The most influential answer was probably suggested by Aristotle, who in his Poetics regarded a particular instance of mimesis as constituting the soul of poetry: the construction of plot which he called mimesis of action, or muthos. However, he used mimesis in several different meanings without distinguishing clearly between them, and through tradition it has been interpreted in many ways and translated into a number of terms which do not always seem to have very much in common. The tremendous influence of his Poetics and the concept of mimesis may in fact be due to this elusiveness.

This book sets out to clarify the notion of mimesis in the Aristotelian tradition by demonstrating how interpretations of Aristotle’s Poetics have vacillated between two particularly dominating instances of mimesis, what the author labels mimesis-composition and mimesis-representation. The vocabulary may be the same, but the definition of the soul of poetry may differ substantially depending on which instance dominates at any given time. Since Aristotle’s poetological categories were inspired by those of rhetoric, the study begins with an analysis of Aristotle’s Poetics from a rhetorical point of view. Subsequent chapters then study exemplary reinterpretations of the soul of poetry within the Aristotelian tradition, from Averroës and receptions in the Italian Renaissance and French classicism to the influential launch of the “Fine Arts” by Charles Batteux and his German counterparts, such as Schlegel, in the 18th century. Concluding chapters apply the perspective on issues concerning the aesthetics of the sublime, the symbol and the role of emotions in the system of genres.

The Soul of Poetry Redefined is a significant contribution to, as well as continuation of, one of the most prevalent debates within the reception history of Aristotle’s Poetics. It is important reading for anyone interested in tracing the influential concept of mimesis and its variegated – and often enriching – permutations, from Aristotle to the romantic period.

Mats Malm is Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Gothenburg.

Emneområde | Filosofi og psykologi | Litteraturvidenskab |
Emneord | Idehistorie | Litteraturteori | Metaforik | Receptionshistorie | Renæssance | Retorik | Romantikken | Symbolik |
Specifikt emneord | Genre | Klassicisme | Mimesis | Poetik | det Sublime |
Biograferet person | Aristoteles | Averroës | August Wilhelm Schlegel |
Sprog | Engelsk |

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"The ambition of this book is to be lauded ... I cannot help but admire Malm’s book, which presents a significant effort in both comparative literature studies and in the history (and philosophy) of aesthetics. It is easy to begin to take for granted much of the material he presents, and if my prior complaints are directed primarily towards his exclusion of contemporary and twentieth century riticism, this is probably accommodated for by his extensive use of obscure, sometimes even forgotten, figures in the earlier history of poetics. If it is understood as an effort primarily not of interpretation but of excavation, an archeology of mimesis as the history of poetics situated within the broader practice of aesthetics, it succeeds remarkably. Any student of poetry can find much in this volume to take as a jumping off point, and moreover it may be used in the classroom as a concise and usually very readable primer or introduction to the concept of mimesis. Many of the important sources he recovers, such as the Schlegel-Batteux debate ... or the rhetoric (gender trouble aside) of Saint Bridget’s revelations, are rich topics for scholarly inquiry: inquiry that will hopefully extend efforts to rapple not only with the Aristotelian past but also the continuing evolution of aesthetic concepts in a period in which scholars across disciplinary boundaries are returning with renewed attention to the question of the formal."

- Nicholas Morgan, Comitatus, Volume 44, 2013 (UCLA, Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies).

"Mats Malm's The Soul of Poetry Redefined represents a welcome attempt to clarify the various, ever-changing meanings attached to some basic terms - most notably mimesis, diction, and verisimilitude - amid the reception and interpretation of the Poetics from the twelfth to the eighteenth century ... The transhistorical breadth required of such a project makes it an ambitious undertaking; the book's achievements arise from its narrow constraint of focus on the traditional terms and categories of Aristotle's treatise ... Written in a terse, lucid style, the book would serve well as an introductory guide on the afterlife of the Poetics. Its relative short chapters are subdivided into sections devoted to the reception and interpretation of Aristotle's poetic categories. The author, moreover, routinely makes good use of taxonomy, offering diagrams that track the evolution of these categories across historical periods ... Malm's study offers a valuable and lucid account of the reception of Aristotelian mimesis from Averroës through the end of the eighteenth century. Its conclusions are suggestive, and will be of interes to specialists in various fields."

- Joshua Swidzinski, Columbia University, Comparative Literature Studies, Volume 52, number 3, 2015.

"The book is a valuable contribution to the study of mimesis and of the long-lasting influence of Aristotle in Western aesthetics. Summing Up: recommended, Graduate students and researchers."

- P. I. Vieira, CHOICE, april 2013

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