A slightly longer quote this week, from the Poetics of Aristotle. He talks about the meaning of unity of action, or plot – one of the three unities (aka classical unities) in literature. The other two unities are the unity of place and the unityof time. The three unities were described by Aristotle in his Poetics; they were later followed by such neo-classical authors as Molière and Racine. A play that observes the three unities will have a single action occurring in a single place in the course of a single day.
Una cita un poco más larga este semana, de La Poética de Aristóteles. Nos habla sobre el significado de la unidad de acción, es decir trama – una de las tres unidades (también conocido como unidades clásicas) en literatura. Las otras dos son la unidad de tiempo y la unidad de lugar. Las tres unidades fueron descritas por Aristóteles en La Poética; luego fueron observadas por tal autores neoclásicos como Molière y Racine. Una obra que observa las tres unidades tendrá una acción sola, ocurriendo en un lugar único durante un día sólo.
Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana:
Unity of plot does not, as some persons think, consist in the unity of the hero. For infinitely various are the incidents in one man’s life which cannot be reduced to unity; and so, too, there are many actions of one man out of which we cannot make one action. Hence the error, as it appears, of all poets who have composed a Heracleid, a Theseid, or other poems of the kind. They imagine that as Heracles was one man, the story of Heracles must also be a unity.
But Homer, as in all else he is of surpassing merit, here too- whether from art or natural genius- seems to have happily discerned the truth. In composing the Odyssey he did not include all the adventures of Odysseus- such as his wound on Parnassus, or his feigned madness at the mustering of the host- incidents between which there was no necessary or probable connection: but he made the Odyssey, and likewise the Iliad, to center round an action that in our sense of the word is one.
As therefore, in the other imitative arts, the imitation is one when the object imitated is one, so the plot, being an imitation of an action, must imitate one action and that a whole, the structural union of the parts being such that, if any one of them is displaced or removed, the whole will be disjointed and disturbed. For a thing whose presence or absence makes no visible difference, is not an organic part of the whole.
La unidad de la fábula no consiste, según algunos suponen, en tener un hombre como un héroe, pues la vida de un mismo hombre comprende un gran número, una infinidad de acontecimientos que no forman una unidad, y de igual modo existen muchas acciones de un individuo que no pueden reunirse para formar una acción. Se advierte, entonces, el error de todos los poetas que han escrito una Heracleida, una Theseida o poemas semejantes; ellos creen que, porque Heracles fue un hombre, la historia de Heracles debe ser una historia.
Homero, sin duda, entendió este aspecto muy bien, ya por arte o por instinto, justamente debido a que excedió al resto en todos los detalles. Al escribir la Odisea no permitió que el poema registrara todo lo que por cierto le aconteció al héroe; por ejemplo, le sucedió ser herido en el Parnaso y también fingirse loco en la época del llamado a las armas, pero ambos incidentes no tenían ninguna conexión necesaria o probable entre sí. En lugar de ello, tomó como tema de la Odisea, como también de la Ilíada, una acción con la unidad del tipo que hemos descrito.
La verdad es que así como en las otras artes imitativas una imitación es siempre de una cosa, de igual modo en la poesía la fábula, como imitación de la acción, debe representar una acción, un todo completo, con sus diversos incidentes tan íntimamente relacionados que la transposición o eliminación de cualquiera de ellos distorsiona o disloca el conjunto. Por tal causa aquello que por su presencia o ausencia no provoca ninguna diferencia perceptible no constituye ninguna parte real del todo.
Homer, for example, makes men better than they are; Cleophon as they are; Hegemon the Thasian, the inventor of parodies, and Nicochares, the author of the Deiliad, worse than they are.
As, in the serious style, Homer is pre-eminent among poets, for he alone combined dramatic form with excellence of imitation so he too first laid down the main lines of comedy, by dramatizing the ludicrous instead of writing personal satire. His Margites bears the same relation to comedy that the Iliad and Odyssey do to tragedy.
So in this respect, too, compared with all other poets Homer may seem, as we have already said, divinely inspired, in that even with the Trojan war, which has a beginning and an end, he did not endeavour to dramatise it as a whole, since it would have been either too long to be taken in all at once or, if he had moderated the length, he would have complicated it by the variety of incident. As it is, he takes one part of the story only and uses many incidents from other parts, such as the Catalogue of Ships and other incidents with which he diversifies his poetry.
In composing the Odyssey he did not include all the adventures of Odysseus- such as his wound on Parnassus, or his feigned madness at the mustering of the host- incidents between which there was no necessary or probable connection: but he made theOdyssey, and likewise the Iliad, to centre round an action that in our sense of the word is one.
Everything in this book may well seem both to lovers of poetry and to classical scholars an unnecessary gloss upon the Odyssey. In one sense it is, for it is clearly unnecessary to attempt to trace the voyage of Ulysses when millions of people, for thousands of years, have been quite happy to read the Odyssey as if it was only a fable…
I do not think that anything is lost by attempting to find a skeleton – however magnificent the cupboard that hides it. I have seen coral formations disguising the old bones of ships, but I did not feel less amazed by the beauty of the coral just because I had found the timbers and iron frames which the polyps had disguised and decorated.
In 1981, the Italian writer Italo Calvino wrote an essay titled Why Read the Classics?. It’s less than ten entertaining pages, so I recommend you read it if you can lay your hands on it. (It’s been published in a book form, in a collection of his essays, bearing the same title.)
What follows here is the 14 definitions of what classics are as put forward in the essay – 14 definitions worth thinking about:
Hace mucho tiempo el escritor argentino, Jorge Luis Borges estaba enseñando literatura inglesa en la universidad de Buenos Aires. Un día dijo a sus estudiantes:
A long time ago the Argentinian writer, Jorge Luis Borges taught English Literature at the University of Buenos Aires. One day he said to his students:
La cita de la semana / Quote of the Week:
Si Shakespeare les interesa, está bien. Si les resulta tedioso, déjenlo. Shakespeare no ha escrito aún para ustedes. Llegará un día que Shakespeare será digno de ustedes y ustedes serán dignos de Shakespeare, pero mientras tanto no hay que apresurar las cosas.”
(Jorge Luis Borges: Curso de literatura inglesa en la universidad de Buenos Aires)
If Shakespeare interests you, that’s fine. If you find him tedious, leave him. Shakespeare hasn’t yet written for you. The day will come when Shakespeare will be right for you and you will be worthy of Shakespeare, but in the meantime there’s no need to hurry things.
It was evening when we made our way back to the cove. The sun was setting fire to the headlands west of us, and the sea had become absolutely still. Not even a cat’s-paw trailed across the purple water. The sea was truly like wine to look at. The professors who had decried Homer’s adjective and invented other meanings for it, had never been sailors.