Catharsis, Linguistics & All That
THEORIES OF POETRY afford us a curious minor example of European mental processes. For nearly twenty-five hundred years now, since the’ Greeks invented Poetics, our cultural forebears have been arranging and rearranging the three terms Plato used to describe the origin, nature, and function of Poetry, always placing them, just as Plato did, in relation to some larger proposition about humanity or perhaps divinity. For Plato, of course, what he said about the poet, the poem, and the audience all had to serve his own larger notion, which was that man should be rational. Since Poetry in its origin, nature, and function had little to do with reason, there could be no place for it in Plato’s utterly rational visionary Republic. Poetry must be banned. After Plato, nearly everybody used his three terms for Poetry but nearly always they used them to escape his conclusion.
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