The Aesthetics of Mimesis: Ancient Texts and Modern Problems
Mimesis is one of the oldest, most fundamental concepts in Western aesthetics. This book offers a new, searching treatment of its long history at the center of theories of representational art: above all, in the highly influential writings of Plato and Aristotle, but also in later Greco-Roman philosophy and criticism, and subsequently in many areas of aesthetic controversy from the Renaissance to the twentieth century. Combining classical scholarship, philosophical analysis, and the history of ideas--and ranging across discussion of poetry, painting, and music--Stephen Halliwell shows with a wealth of detail how mimesis, at all stages of its evolution, has been a more complex, variable concept than its conventional translation of "imitation" can now convey.Far from providing a static model of artistic representation, mimesis has generated many different models of art, encompassing a spectrum of positions from realism to idealism. Under the influence of Platonist and Aristotelian paradigms, mimesis has been a crux of debate between proponents of what Halliwell calls "world-reflecting" and "world-simulating" theories of representation in both the visual and musico-poetic arts. This debate is about not only the fraught relationship between art and reality but also the psychology and ethics of how we experience and are affected by mimetic art.Moving expertly between ancient and modern traditions, Halliwell contends that the history of mimesis hinges on problems that continue to be of urgent concern for contemporary aesthetics.
There's nothing like it
By K. Kehler - March 8, 2010
This is a careful, thorough, dense and exceptionally rewarding book. The book is a contribution to our understanding of the key notion of mimesis, and related concepts like mimeticism and the "imitation of nature", particularly with respect to tragedy and music. Halliwell tackles this notion (mimesis) via history and philosophy, ranging from Plato to Schlegel, from Aristotle to Goethe, and from Kant and Pater to Marxist social realism, though chapter-wise the book moves from Plato and Aristotle through to hellenistic thinkers and neoplatonists, before finishing with a fascinating -- if weighty -- 40 page conclusion on the afterlife of mimesis from the Renaissance through to Modernity. One of Halliwell's strengths is that every page has some nuggets that will serve as food for further thought.
Halliwell is a classicist of note, but because he is a very well rounded scholar -- remarkably well versed in the history of ideas, as well as philosophy -- his contribution is one... read more
By Rick Jankins - August 18, 2004
A strange conglomeration of laughter and seriousness. Sometimes hard to read, though one does not have to read a book to review it, although I did read this book and would reccomend it to anyone.