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date: 18 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses two ancient and long-persisting views of poetry that interpenetrate but are distinguishable: an earlier view, rooted in archaic oral-traditional rhetoric, which regards poetry as epideictic rhetoric composed in verse or song; and a later view, arising from classical theory and hermeneutics, which regards poetry as in essence a mimesis (representation) or philosophical fabulation (allegory) that conventionally is composed in verse but need not be. In the former view, poetry/song is a rhetorical (persuasive) act, and the audience’s role is to respond; in the latter, the poem/representation is a hermeneutic object, and the audience’s role is to decode. The earlier view accounts most fully for actual poetic practice from early to late antiquity, but the later view survives into modernity as the main thread in Western literary theory and poetics.

Keywords: poetics, archaic oral-traditional rhetoric, epideictic rhetoric, rhetorical act, mimesis, fabulation, allegory, hermeneutics, verse, song

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