Classical Literary Criticism: Poetics; Ars Poetica; On the Sublime (Classics)

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9780140441550: Classical Literary Criticism: Poetics; Ars Poetica; On the Sublime (Classics)

This anthology brings together core classical texts for understanding literature. The selections from Plato illustrate the poetic philosopher's surprising exclusion of poets from his ideal republic. In his response, Poetics, Aristotle draws on the works of the great Greek playwrights to defend the value of the art. Horace's The Art of Poetry is a vivid practitioner's guide that promotes a style of poetic craftsmanship rooted in wisdom, ethical insight, and decorum. Longinus's On the Sublime explores the nature of inspiration in poetry and prose. This volume is a work of great value and interest to classicists, students, and writers.

In her Introduction, Penelope Murray compares and contrasts the viewpoints of these formidable critics as well as their impact on the Western tradition. This edition also includes a new bibliography and chronology and comprehensive notes to each of the texts.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

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From the Back Cover:

This new edition of Classical Literary Criticism contains the landmarks of ancient literary criticism in accessible and lucid translations.

In her Introduction Penelope Murray shows how many of the most fruitful approaches to understanding literature in the Western tradition derive from these canonical texts. Plato is often regarded as the most poetic of the great philosophers, but he mistrusted the god-like power of poets to work on our feelings and famously banished them from his ideal Republic. Aristotle responded by defending the value of art in his Poetics. His analysis of tragedy, with its key concepts of mimesis, catharsis and hamartia, has influenced generations of critics from the Renaissance onwards. Horace's The Art of Poetry is a vivid practitioner's guide that promotes a style of poetic craftsmanship rooted in wisdom, ethical insight and decorum, while Longinus' remarkable On the Sublime explores the nature of inspiration in poetry and prose.

This edition also features a new bibliography and chronology as well as comprehensive notes to each of the texts.

About the Author:

Aristotle was born at Stageira, in the dominion of the kings of Macedonia, in 384 BC. For twenty years he studied at Athens in the Academy of Plato, on whose death in 347 he left, and, some time later, became tutor of the young Alexander the Great. When Alexander succeeded to the throne of Macedonia in 335, Aristotle returned to Athens and established his school and research institute, the Lyceum, to which his great erudition attracted a large number of scholars. After Alexander's death in 323, anti-Macedonian feeling drove Aristotle out of Athens, and he fled to Chalcis in Euboea, where he died in 322. His writings, which were of extraordinary range, profoundly affected the whole course of ancient and medieval philosophy, and they are still eagerly studied and debated by philosophers today. Very many of them have survived and among the most famous are the Ethics and the Politics.


Quintus Horatius Flaccus was born in 6 B.C. at Venusia in Apulia. His father, though once a slave, had made enough money as an auctioneer to send his son to a well-known school in Rome and subsequently to university in Athens. There Horace joined Brutus’ army and served on his staff until the defeat at Philippi in 42 BC. On returning to Rome, he found that his father was dead and his property had been confiscated, but he succeeded in obtaining a secretarial post in the treasury, which gave him enough to live on. The poetry he wrote in the next few years impressed Virgil, who introduced him to the great patron Maecenas in 38 BC. This event marked the beginning of a life-long friendship. From now on Horace had no financial worries; he moved freely among the leading poets and statesmen of Rome; his work was admired by Augustus, and indeed after Virgil’s death in 19 BC he was virtually Poet Laureate. Horace died in 8 BC, only a few months after Maecenas.

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