Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Horace's Ars Poetica Notes

In Ars Poetica, Horace advises poets/playwrights on how to become respected writers. In addition to his strict rules regarding length and purpose (comedy or tragedy), Horace also makes suggestions concerning character development, urging these students to stick to the "truth" and to the familiar, lest they lose the audience's respect. Clearly, Horace admires the Greek traditions over that of the Romans. Throughout the piece, Horace's vivid, concrete analogies illustrate his points with humor.

Assumptions/Shared Values:

Greeks rule.
Tradition over innovation.
Roman culture/art is more materialistic than that of the Greeks.


Consider your audience. They can spot a fake.

Talent and experience matter more than hard work when creating art.

Style and substance both matter -- Horace suggests that Roman poets value style over substance.

Unlike Plato, Horace suggests each genre (tragedy/comedy) should remain distinct.
Plato says the two are related.

Questions and links:

Do you agree with Horace? This question applies to all readings.

Plato suggests that comedy and tragedy are related. Clearly, Shakespeare agrees. Horace seems to say that they should remain distinct. Am I misreading this?

I enjoyed the concrete examples in this. I find abstract ideas without concrete details difficult to understand.

In my own work as a high school English teacher, I also find that most students fall in love with their drafts and find revision difficult.

I prefer Archibald MacLeish's "Ars Poetica"to Horace.

"A poem should be equal to:
Not true."

"A poem should not mean
But be."

These lines connect with several of the readings. Horace would say that you should try to approximate reality by carefully observing your own experiences. Aristotle agrees with this to a points, for he also advises authors to create characters who are believable but better than reality. MacLeish suggests this isn't the point, that the poem exists as its own reality.

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