Sunday, 1 May 2016

Scenes from a Scotch Classroom No. XXXIV

Hands up who's done the reading?

No, well, I would have been foolish to expect anymore than that.
Still, today, it's Aristotle's Poetics, again. Yes, I know, we've been studying for two thousand years now but until we get it right, I'm not moving onto Nietzsche, even if he is more fun, with the BDSM and the breakdown and the syphilis. 

Can anyone tell me what the biggest problem is with The Poetics? No, not it is boring, thank you. What? Hanartia? No, that's pretty clear... it means 'sin', for fuck sake...

Good to see that a bit of swearing can wake up you at the back. 

Yes, it's the irony. A thinker who really retooled philosophy as a practical study, making it not about the abstract search for truth but practical application... has left us with a book that nobody knows what it is for. Best guesses include an answer to Plato's worries about acting, a handbook for dramatists, a theory of literary criticism... but since the bloody thing is clearly unfinished...

Because he says he is going to discuss comedy and define catharsis and he doesn't. I don't know, maybe they lost part two down the back of an Ottoman sofa. 

Or a mad blind monk ate it during a fire. Obviously.

You are lucky this isn't a classics lesson. You ought to see the reading I have to do for this. Nearly every article and book on The Poetics ends up with a long argument about how every other explanation of catharsis is wrong followed by another barely indistinguishable definition. Questions?

Okay, it's pronounced catharsis, not catheter. But the reason it matters is simple. Experiencing theatre, at least if it is any good, involves an emotional response. Catharsis might be a description of that moment. 

I know, it's funny how they use other examples of the word in Aristotle to find out what he means. Purgation, exactly - or having a period.

Stop giggling. The thing is, they never actually describe an experience that might be catharsis in their own lives. 

Okay. Let's remember. Meaning happens at that moment when the audience - or reader, or whatever - connects with the work of art. Bearing that in mind, your homework is to describe a moment when you connected with a piece of theatre.

It's in the exam at the Pearly Fucking Gates, son.

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