Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface

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pp. ix-xviii

This is to be a book about the purposes of comedy, by which I mean in the first instance the dramatic art that the ordinary educated imagination unproblematically traces back from contemporary playwrights and movie makers (like Stoppard) through Shakespeare to Aristophanes. It is written...

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A Note on Key Words and References

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pp. xix-xxii

It is difficult to trace what may or may not be intricacies of argument across languages, to say nothing of tempora and mores. It is particularly difficult if one is not a philologist. Nonetheless, philology is a useful tool for philosophical investigation, and so I have, throughout this text, taken note...

Works and Editions of Aristotle

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pp. xxiii-xxiv

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xxv-xxvi

Parts of this book have been delivered as lectures at various venues; among them are the Society of Ancient Greek Philosophy meetings at State University of New York at Binghamton and Fordham University as well as their meetings with the American Philosophical Association, the Philosophy...

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Propylaia

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pp. 1-12

In a recent book opening on to many of the issues this one will examine, Stephen Halliwell invokes the shade of Goethe, in particular his essay “Über Wahrheit und Wahrscheinlichkeit der Kunstwerke,” as the propylaia for his reexamination of the concept of mimesis.1 In setting up this...

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1. The Problem of the Iphigenia and the Purposes of Tragedy

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pp. 13-107

This section will lay out the place of the Poetics in criticism and show the filiation of poetry to natural living things on one side and tools on the other. That double analogy shows that constructing poetry is like constructing constitutions, and so criticism of poetry, like criticism of constitutions, will...

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2. The Purpose of Comedy

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pp. 108-177

The question of comedy’s telos, or final cause, is just one of the questions left open due to that most famous nonextant book in history, the second book of Aristotle’s Poetics, and there have been not a few suggestions to fill the gap. Before we turn to them, let us begin by remembering the definition of...

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3. The Exemplary Comic Fiction: Resolution, Catharsis, and Culture in As You Like It

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pp. 178-235

Having provided an answer to the question of what comedy does, we may now attempt a more exacting answer to the question of how comedy effects a catharsis of desire (eros) and sympathy. Aristotle is clear in the extant Poetics that plot is that through which the play does its work—it is the...

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4. A Love Song for the Life of the Mind: Arcadia

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pp. 236-283

Before we know, we desire to know. How can this be? And what a strange desire!—what a strange animal! Before we are happy, and before we know what happiness is, we desire to be happy. But there is a natural pleasure in mimesis, and through mimesis we first learn. One of the first things that...

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Epilogue: “Still awake and drinking”: Symposium

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pp. 284-306

If what I have been arguing for is true about comedy, then it might also have been a thought familiar to that one-time dramatist and lover of Aristophanes, Plato, and so, feeling merry and self-indulgent at the end of this project—it being a season of merriment—and entertaining the fleeting...

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 307-316

Index

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pp. 317-324