Friday, February 6, 2009

BC: Aristotle's Poetics to Caesar's Commentaries

335 BC. Poetics. Aristotle. Greek. Treatise. All arts originate in imitation and instinct for harmony and rhythm. Poetry more philosophical than history: deals with universals vs. particulars. Objects of imitation are men of action. Tragedy is better than life; comedy is worse than life. Epic = no limits of time; tragedy: single revolution of sun. Tragedy: emotions of pity, fear are released: catharsis. Fortunes fall from good to bad because of tragic flaw. Disapproves of the use of deus ex machine. First treatise devoted wholly to literary criticism.

300 BC. Hsun Tzu. Hsun Ch’ing. Chinese. Nonfiction. First expository Confucian text. Man by nature is evil. Attacks superstition, extols reason. Emphasizes need for education. Contradicts Mencius who believed in the goodness of man’s nature.

205 BC. Miles Gloriosus. Plautus. Roman. Play. Prototype of a long line of military braggarts.

95/55 BC. On the Nature of Things. Lucretius. Roman. Poetry. (De rerum natura). Book 1: All things are made up of eternal atoms moving through infinite space. Book 2: The entire world of material substances is produced through joining of these atoms. Book 3: Mind and spirit are also arrangements of atoms. At death the soul is dispersed as imperishable atoms fly apart. Book 4: Sensation, perception, and thought are produced by images emitted by external surfaces. Book 5: The world as we know it is created by a fortuitous concourse of atoms. Book 6: All natural phenomena can be explained according to this atomic theory. All things operate according to their own laws and are not influenced by supernatural powers. Lucretius committed suicide before completing the final draft of his poem.

58/44 BC. Commentaries on the Gallic War. Julius Caesar. Roman. History. Seven books. Each book covers one year. Caesar made Gaul a permanent part of the Empire. Clear, concise Latin. Historical accuracy.

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