Mimesis ( /, -, -,- / ; Ancient Greek : μίμησις, mīmēsis) is a term used in literary criticism and philosophy that carries a wide range of meanings, including imitatio , imitation, nonsensuous similarity, receptivity, representation, mimicry, the act of expression, the act of resembling, and the presentation of the self.
The original Ancient Greek term mīmēsis (μίμησις) derives from mīmeisthai (μιμεῖσθαι, 'to imitate'), itself coming from mimos (μῖμος, 'imitator, actor'). In ancient Greece, mīmēsis was an idea that governed the creation of works of art, in particular, with correspondence to the physical world understood as a model for beauty, truth, and the good. Plato contrasted mimesis, or imitation, with diegesis , or narrative. After Plato, the meaning of mimesis eventually shifted toward a specifically literary function in ancient Greek society.[ citation needed ]
One of the best-known modern studies of mimesis—understood in literature as a form of realism—is Erich Auerbach's Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature , which opens with a comparison between the way the world is represented in Homer's Odyssey and the way it appears in the Bible.
In addition to Plato and Auerbach, mimesis has been theorised by thinkers as diverse as Aristotle, Philip Sidney, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Adam Smith, Gabriel Tarde, Sigmund Freud, Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Paul Ricœur, Luce Irigaray, Jacques Derrida, René Girard, Nikolas Kompridis, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, Michael Taussig, Merlin Donald, and Homi Bhabha.[ citation needed ]
Both Plato and Aristotle saw in mimesis the representation of nature, including human nature, as reflected in the dramas of the period. Plato wrote about mimesis in both Ion and The Republic (Books II, III, and X). In Ion, he states that poetry is the art of divine madness, or inspiration. Because the poet is subject to this divine madness, instead of possessing 'art' or 'knowledge' ( techne ) of the subject, the poet does not speak truth (as characterized by Plato's account of the Forms). As Plato has it, truth is the concern of the philosopher. As culture in those days did not consist in the solitary reading of books, but in the listening to performances, the recitals of orators (and poets), or the acting out by classical actors of tragedy, Plato maintained in his critique that theatre was not sufficient in conveying the truth. He was concerned that actors or orators were thus able to persuade an audience by rhetoric rather than by telling the truth.
In Book II of The Republic, Plato describes Socrates' dialogue with his pupils. Socrates warns we should not seriously regard poetry as being capable of attaining the truth and that we who listen to poetry should be on our guard against its seductions, since the poet has no place in our idea of God. :377
Developing upon this in Book X, Plato told of Socrates' metaphor of the three beds: one bed exists as an idea made by God (the Platonic ideal, or form); one is made by the carpenter, in imitation of God's idea; and one is made by the artist in imitation of the carpenter's. :596–9
So the artist's bed is twice removed from the truth. Those who copy only touch on a small part of things as they really are, where a bed may appear differently from various points of view, looked at obliquely or directly, or differently again in a mirror. So painters or poets, though they may paint or describe a carpenter, or any other maker of things, know nothing of the carpenter's (the craftsman's) art,and though the better painters or poets they are, the more faithfully their works of art will resemble the reality of the carpenter making a bed, nonetheless the imitators will still not attain the truth (of God's creation).
The poets, beginning with Homer, far from improving and educating humanity, do not possess the knowledge of craftsmen and are mere imitators who copy again and again images of virtue and rhapsodise about them, but never reach the truth in the way the superior philosophers do.
Similar to Plato's writings about mimesis, Aristotle also defined mimesis as the perfection, and imitation of nature. Art is not only imitation but also the use of mathematical ideas and symmetry in the search for the perfect, the timeless, and contrasting being with becoming. Nature is full of change, decay, and cycles, but art can also search for what is everlasting and the first causes of natural phenomena. Aristotle wrote about the idea of four causes in nature. The first, the formal cause, is like a blueprint, or an immortal idea. The second cause is the material cause, or what a thing is made out of. The third cause is the efficient cause, that is, the process and the agent by which the thing is made. The fourth, the final cause, is the good, or the purpose and end of a thing, known as telos .
Aristotle's Poetics is often referred to as the counterpart to this Platonic conception of poetry. Poetics is his treatise on the subject of mimesis. Aristotle was not against literature as such; he stated that human beings are mimetic beings, feeling an urge to create texts (art) that reflect and represent reality.
Aristotle considered it important that there be a certain distance between the work of art on the one hand and life on the other; we draw knowledge and consolation from tragedies only because they do not happen to us. Without this distance, tragedy could not give rise to catharsis. However, it is equally important that the text causes the audience to identify with the characters and the events in the text, and unless this identification occurs, it does not touch us as an audience. Aristotle holds that it is through "simulated representation," mimesis, that we respond to the acting on the stage which is conveying to us what the characters feel, so that we may empathise with them in this way through the mimetic form of dramatic roleplay. It is the task of the dramatist to produce the tragic enactment to accomplish this empathy by means of what is taking place on stage.
In short, catharsis can only be achieved if we see something that is both recognisable and distant. Aristotle argued that literature is more interesting as a means of learning than history, because history deals with specific facts that have happened, and which are contingent, whereas literature, although sometimes based on history, deals with events that could have taken place or ought to have taken place.
Aristotle thought of drama as being "an imitation of an action" and of tragedy as "falling from a higher to a lower estate" and so being removed to a less ideal situation in more tragic circumstances than before. He posited the characters in tragedy as being better than the average human being, and those of comedy as being worse.
Michael Davis, a translator and commentator of Aristotle writes:
At first glance, mimesis seems to be a stylizing of reality in which the ordinary features of our world are brought into focus by a certain exaggeration, the relationship of the imitation to the object it imitates being something like the relationship of dancing to walking. Imitation always involves selecting something from the continuum of experience, thus giving boundaries to what really has no beginning or end. Mimêsis involves a framing of reality that announces that what is contained within the frame is not simply real. Thus the more "real" the imitation the more fraudulent it becomes.
It was also Plato and Aristotle who contrasted mimesis with diegesis (Greek: διήγησις). Mimesis shows, rather than tells, by means of directly represented action that is enacted. Diegesis, however, is the telling of the story by a narrator; the author narrates action indirectly and describes what is in the characters' minds and emotions. The narrator may speak as a particular character or may be the "invisible narrator" or even the "all-knowing narrator" who speaks from above in the form of commenting on the action or the characters.
In Book III of his Republic (c. 373 BCE), Plato examines the style of poetry (the term includes comedy, tragedy, epic and lyric poetry): all types narrate events, he argues, but by differing means. He distinguishes between narration or report (diegesis) and imitation or representation (mimesis). Tragedy and comedy, he goes on to explain, are wholly imitative types; the dithyramb is wholly narrative; and their combination is found in epic poetry. When reporting or narrating, "the poet is speaking in his own person; he never leads us to suppose that he is any one else;" when imitating, the poet produces an "assimilation of himself to another, either by the use of voice or gesture." In dramatic texts, the poet never speaks directly; in narrative texts, the poet speaks as himself or herself.
In his Poetics , Aristotle argues that kinds of poetry (the term includes drama, flute music, and lyre music for Aristotle) may be differentiated in three ways: according to their medium, according to their objects, and according to their mode or manner (section I); "For the medium being the same, and the objects the same, the poet may imitate by narration—in which case he can either take another personality, as Homer does, or speak in his own person, unchanged—or he may present all his characters as living and moving before us."
Though they conceive of mimesis in quite different ways, its relation with diegesis is identical in Plato's and Aristotle's formulations.
In ludology, mimesis is sometimes used to refer to the self-consistency of a represented world, and the availability of in-game rationalisations for elements of the gameplay. In this context, mimesis has an associated grade: highly self-consistent worlds that provide explanations for their puzzles and game mechanics are said to display a higher degree of mimesis. This usage can be traced back to the essay "Crimes Against Mimesis".
Dionysian imitatio is the influential literary method of imitation as formulated by Greek author Dionysius of Halicarnassus in the 1st century BCE, who conceived it as technique of rhetoric: emulating, adapting, reworking, and enriching a source text by an earlier author.
Dionysius' concept marked a significant depart from the concept of mimesis formulated by Aristotle in the 4th century BCE, which was only concerned with "imitation of nature" rather than the "imitation of other authors."Latin orators and rhetoricians adopted the literary method of Dionysius' imitatio and discarded Aristotle's mimesis.
Referring to it as imitation, the concept of was crucial for Samuel Taylor Coleridge's theory of the imagination. Coleridge begins his thoughts on imitation and poetry from Plato, Aristotle, and Philip Sidney, adopting their concept of imitation of nature instead of other writers. His departure from the earlier thinkers lies in his arguing that art does not reveal a unity of essence through its ability to achieve sameness with nature. Coleridge claims:
[T]he composition of a poem is among the imitative arts; and that imitation, as opposed to copying, consists either in the interfusion of the SAME throughout the radically DIFFERENT, or the different throughout a base radically the same.
Here, Coleridge opposes imitation to copying, the latter referring to William Wordsworth's notion that poetry should duplicate nature by capturing actual speech. Coleridge instead argues that the unity of essence is revealed precisely through different materialities and media. Imitation, therefore, reveals the sameness of processes in nature.
One of the best-known modern studies of mimesis—understood in literature as a form of realism—is Erich Auerbach's Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature , which opens with a famous comparison between the way the world is represented in Homer's Odyssey and the way it appears in the Bible. From these two seminal texts—the former being Western and the latter having been written by various Middle Eastern writers—Auerbach builds the foundation for a unified theory of representation that spans the entire history of Western literature, including the Modernist novels being written at the time Auerbach began his study.
Belgian feminist Luce Irigaray used the term to describe a form of resistance where women imperfectly imitate stereotypes about themselves to expose and undermine such stereotypes.
In Mimesis and Alterity (1993), anthropologist Michael Taussig examines the way that people from one culture adopt another's nature and culture (the process of mimesis) at the same time as distancing themselves from it (the process of alterity). He describes how a legendary tribe, the “White Indians" (the Guna people of Panama and Colombia), have adopted in various representations figures and images reminiscent of the white people they encountered in the past (without acknowledging doing so).
Taussig, however, criticises anthropology for reducing yet another culture, that of the Guna, for having been so impressed by the exotic technologies of the whites that they raised them to the status of gods. To Taussig this reductionism is suspect, and he argues this from both sides in his Mimesis and Alterity to see values in the anthropologists' perspective while simultaneously defending the independence of a lived culture from the perspective of anthropological reductionism.
In Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World (1978), René Girard posits that human behavior is based upon mimesis, and that imitation can engender pointless conflict. Girard notes the productive potential of competition: "It is because of this unprecedented capacity to promote competition within limits that always remain socially, if not individually, acceptable that we have all the amazing achievements of the modern world," but states that competition stifles progress once it becomes an end in itself: "rivals are more apt to forget about whatever objects are the cause of the rivalry and instead become more fascinated with one another."
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath during the Classical period in Ancient Greece. Taught by Plato, he was the founder of the Lyceum, the Peripatetic school of philosophy, and the Aristotelian tradition. His writings cover many subjects including physics, biology, zoology, metaphysics, logic, ethics, aesthetics, poetry, theatre, music, rhetoric, psychology, linguistics, economics, politics, meteorology, geology and government. Aristotle provided a complex synthesis of the various philosophies existing prior to him. It was above all from his teachings that the West inherited its intellectual lexicon, as well as problems and methods of inquiry. As a result, his philosophy has exerted a unique influence on almost every form of knowledge in the West and it continues to be a subject of contemporary philosophical discussion.
Genre is any form or type of communication in any mode with socially-agreed-upon conventions developed over time. In popular usage, it normally describes a category of literature, music, or other forms of art or entertainment, whether written or spoken, audio or visual, based on some set of stylistic criteria, yet genres can be aesthetic, rhetorical, communicative, or functional. Genres form by conventions that change over time as cultures invent new genres and discontinue the use of old ones. Often, works fit into multiple genres by way of borrowing and recombining these conventions. Stand-alone texts, works, or pieces of communication may have individual styles, but genres are amalgams of these texts based on agreed-upon or socially inferred conventions. Some genres may have rigid, strictly adhered-to guidelines, while others may show great flexibility.
Literary criticism is the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. Modern literary criticism is often influenced by literary theory, which is the philosophical discussion of literature's goals and methods. Though the two activities are closely related, literary critics are not always, and have not always been, theorists.
Diegesis is a style of fiction storytelling that presents an interior view of a world in which:
Aristotle's Poetics is the earliest surviving work of dramatic theory and first extant philosophical treatise to focus on literary theory. In this text Aristotle offers an account of ποιητική, which refers to poetry or more literally "the poetic art," deriving from the term for "poet; author; maker," ποιητής. Aristotle divides the art of poetry into verse drama, lyric poetry, and epic. The genres all share the function of mimesis, or imitation of life, but differ in three ways that Aristotle describes:
Erich Auerbach was a German philologist and comparative scholar and critic of literature. His best-known work is Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature, a history of representation in Western literature from ancient to modern times and frequently cited as a classic in the study of realism in literature.
Jacopo Mazzoni was an Italian philosopher, a professor in Pisa, and friend of Galileo Galilei. His first name is sometimes reported as "Giacomo".
In Plato's Ion Socrates discusses with the titular character, a professional rhapsode who also lectures on Homer, the question of whether the rhapsode, a performer of poetry, gives his performance on account of his skill and knowledge or by virtue of divine possession. It is one of the shortest of Plato's dialogues.
Francis Fergusson (1904–1986) was a Harvard and Oxford-educated teacher and critic, a theorist of drama and mythology who wrote The Idea of a Theater, arguably the best and most influential book about drama written by an American. His readable, illuminating edition of Aristotle's Poetics, with Fergusson's introduction and notes, remains in print. His other works include Dante's Drama of the Mind: A Modern Reading of the Purgatorio, which includes his translations of many passages. In The Rarer Action, a volume in tribute to Francis Fergusson, the critic Allen Tate wrote: "The Idea of a Theater" is a work comparable in range and depth with Eric Auerbach's "Mimesis". There is no other work by an American critic of which this can be said."
"Odysseus' Scar" is the first chapter of Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature, a collection of essays by German-Jewish philologist Erich Auerbach charting out the development of representations of reality in literature. It examines the differences between the two types of writing about reality as embodied by Homer's Odyssey and the Old Testament. In the essay, Auerbach introduces his anti-rhetorical position, a position developed further in the companion essay "Fortunata" which compares the Roman tradition of Tacitus and Petronius with the New Testament, as anathema to a true representation of everyday life. Auerbach proceeds with this comparative approach until the triumph of Flaubert, Balzac and "modern realism".
In literature and other artistic media, a mode is an unspecific critical term usually designating a broad but identifiable kind of literary method, mood, or manner that is not tied exclusively to a particular form or genre. Examples are the satiric mode, the ironic, the comic, the pastoral, and the didactic.
Verisimilitude is the "lifelikeness" or believability of a work of fiction. The word comes from Latin: verum meaning truth and similis meaning similar. Language philosopher Steve Neale distinguishes between two types: cultural verisimilitude, meaning plausibility of the fictional work within the cultural and/or historical context of the real world, outside of the work; and generic verisimilitude, meaning plausibility of a fictional work within the bounds of its own genre.
Gerald Frank Else was a distinguished American classicist. He was professor of Greek and Latin at University of Michigan and University of Iowa. Else is substantially credited with the refinement of Aristotelian scholarship in aesthetics in the 20th century to expand the reading of catharsis alone to include the aesthetic triad of mimesis, hamartia, and catharsis as all essentially linked to each other.
An Apology for Poetry is a work of literary criticism by Elizabethan poet Philip Sidney. It was written in approximately 1580 and first published in 1595, after his death.
In philosophy, lexis is a complete group of words in a language, vocabulary, the total set of all words in a language, and all words that have meaning or a function in grammar.
Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature is a book of literary criticism by Erich Auerbach, and his most well known work. Written while Auerbach was teaching in Istanbul, Turkey, where he fled after being ousted from his professorship in Romance Philology at the University of Marburg by the Nazis in 1935, it was first published in 1946 by A. Francke Verlag.
Dionysian imitatio is the influential literary method of imitation as formulated by Greek author Dionysius of Halicarnassus in the first century BCE, which conceived it as the rhetorical practice of emulating, adapting, reworking and enriching a source text by an earlier author. It is a departure from the concept of mimesis which only is concerned with "imitation of nature" instead of the "imitation of other authors."
George Whalley was a scholar, poet, naval officer and secret intelligence agent during World War II, CBC broadcaster, musician, biographer, and translator. He taught English at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario (1950–80) and was twice the head of the department. He was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 1959. He married Elizabeth Watts on July 25, 1944. They had three children: Katharine, Christopher, and Emily. His brother, Peter Whalley, was a famous artist and cartoonist.
Francis Stephen Halliwell,, known as Stephen Halliwell, is a British classicist and academic. Since 1995 he has been Professor of Greek at the University of St Andrews and Wardlaw Professor of Classics since 2014. Prior to that he taught at the universities of Oxford, London, Cambridge, and Birmingham. He has also held visiting positions at the University of Chicago, the Center for Ideas and Society, Roma Tre University, McMaster University, the Université catholique de Louvain, and Cornell University. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2011 and a Fellow of the British Academy in 2014.
Metaphysical concepts relate to the ideas of transcendent and universal elements that surpass the human interactions. They aim to explore notions that humans have yet to comprehend, or have merely touched on in order to provide an understanding of what lies beyond the physical world. Aesthetics aims to explore questions relating to the natural world, beauty and art, and the intertwining of each. Therefore, in conjunction with metaphysical concepts, these two branches of philosophy explore the transformative and distinctiveness of art and what distinguishes something as art. These ideas highly conflicted with modern scientific knowledge as they were based on theories and concepts in comparison to reliable experiments that resulted in tangible or viewable proof. In relation to naturalism many philosophers such as John Dewey, Ernest Nagel and Sidney Hook are compelled to believe that only what is seen and touched or scientifically proven can be true, and in saying so, can be meaningful to humans.
You are aware, I suppose, that all mythology and poetry is a narration of events, either past, present, or to come? / Certainly, he replied.
And narration may be either simple narration, or imitation, or a union of the two? / [...] / And this assimilation of himself to another, either by the use of voice or gesture, is the imitation of the person whose character he assumes? / Of course. / Then in this case the narrative of the poet may be said to proceed by way of imitation? / Very true. / Or, if the poet everywhere appears and never conceals himself, then again the imitation is dropped, and his poetry becomes simple narration.
"classical narrative is always oriented towards an explicit there and then, towards an imaginary 'elsewhere' set in the past and which has to be evoked for the reader through predication and description. Dramatic worlds, on the other hand, are presented to the spectator as 'hypothetically actual' constructs, since they are 'seen' in progress 'here and now' without narratorial mediation. [...] This is not merely a technical distinction but constitutes, rather, one of the cardinal principles of a poetics of the drama as opposed to one of narrative fiction. The distinction is, indeed, implicit in Aristotle's differentiation of representational modes, namely diegesis (narrative description) versus mimesis (direct imitation)." (pp. 110–1).
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