Ap literature and Composition “It’s a moody Monday!” November 16, 2009 Mr. Houghteling Agenda

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AP Literature and Composition

  • “It’s a moody Monday!”
  • November 16, 2009
  • Mr. Houghteling


  • Quickwrite—your definitions of comedy and tragedy.
  • Scoring/collecting the Sula essays.
  • “Description of the Morning” review.
  • Aristotle’s Poetics - Key definitions and excerpts from the section we read and from the text as a whole - Take notes.

Today is a busy day.

  • Please take out the following documents:
  • -Your Sula essay.
  • -The AP score guide (provided last week).
  • -Your copy of “Description of the Morning.”
  • -Aristotle’s Poetics.


  • What is your definition of a comedy?
  • What is your definition of a tragedy?
  • Analyze your responses:
  • Do comedies and tragedies share any characteristics? If so, what are they? How do the two differ?

Scoring the Sula essay.

  • While you create your own definitions, you should score your own essay using the AP guide.
  • We have read the score guide carefully; put your numeric score on the back of your essay.

Aristotle’s Poetics:

  • Together with Plato (his teacher) and Socrates (Plato's teacher), Aristotle is one of the most important founding figures in Western philosophy. He was the first to create a comprehensive system of Western philosophy.
  • Much of our understanding of rhetoric and literature is based on Aristotle’s treatise, Poetics.

Homework Assignment - Due Tuesday:

  • Read and annotate (mark!) the provided excerpt from Aristotle’s Poetics.
  • On a separate sheet of paper, identify Aristotle’s definitions of the following terms: poetry, comedy, tragedy, plot, character, and thought.

Aristotle’s Poetics:

  • All art is imitation.
  • Art differs in what and how it imitates.
  • Aristotle’s Poetics is a direct reflection of his teacher’s -- Plato’s -- treatise, The Republic.

Plato’s The Republic:

  • According to Plato's Theory of Forms, objects in this world are imitations or approximations of ideal Forms that are the true reality. A chair in this world is just an imitation of the Form of Chair.

Aristotle’s definition of comedy:

  • “Comedy is…an imitation of characters of a lower type, not, however, in the fully sense of the word bad… It consists in some defect or ugliness which is not painful or destructive.”
  • Comedy imitates the imperfect and grotesque; however, it does not cause harm or hurt.

Aristotle’s Poetics - Tragedy

  • Aristotle praises Oedipus the King as the model of a perfect tragedy.
  • Using Sophocles’ play, Aristotle defined tragedy as “an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude.”
  • He also stated that tragedy triggers two emotions: pity and fear.

History of Tragedy

  • Tragedy stems from earlier drama that was religious in nature.
  • The original religious plays usually dealt with issues regarding fate in human life and the relationship between gods and mortals.
  • Greek tragedies maintain these qualities.

Tragic Hero

  • A tragic hero is a dignified or noble character who is central to the drama.

Tragic Flaw

Tragic Flaw continued …

Dramatic Irony

  • Often, the hero is unaware of some information that the audience knows.
  • This may include knowing that the character possesses too much of a particular trait.


  • Definition: a purifying or figurative cleansing of the emotions, especially as an effect of tragic drama.
  • Arguably, one of the reasons why we need art: to cope with those things that would be otherwise too difficult to process.


  • We enjoy watching tragedies because we can empathize with the emotions the tragic hero undergoes throughout the drama.
  • We feel what the hero feels, yet we do not have to endure the trial that the hero endures.

Other definitions from Poetics:

  • Plot = action; “the soul of a tragedy”
  • Character = ethos; distinct qualities that are ascribed to “an agent”
  • Thought = something that is proven to be or not to be or a generally accepted truth. The argument or main idea.
  • Diction = meaning of words (word choice)
  • Spectacle = the setting


  • Review Aristotle’s Poetics.
  • Study his definitions of the provided key terms.
  • Be prepared for tomorrow’s quiz.
  • Bring your textbook to class tomorrow.

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