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Mimesis (; grc, μίμησις, ''mīmēsis'') is a term used in
literary criticism Literary criticism (or literary studies) is the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. Modern literary criticism is often influenced by literary theory, which is the philosophical analysis, philosophical discussion of literature ...
and philosophy that carries a wide range of meanings, including '' imitatio'',
imitation Imitation (from Latin ''imitatio'', "a copying, imitation") is an advanced behavior whereby an individual observes and replicates another's behavior. Imitation is also a form of social learning that leads to the "development of traditions, and ...

imitation
, nonsensuous similarity,
receptivity {{Multiple issues, {{refimprove, date=December 2014{{one source, date=December 2014 Receptivity, or receptive agency, is a practical capacity and source of normative ethics, normativity, discussed and developed in various ways by writers such as R ...
,
representation Representation may refer to: Law and politics *Representation (politics) Political representation is the activity of making citizens "present" in public policy making processes when political actors act in the best interest of citizens. This def ...
,
mimicry In evolutionary biology, mimicry is an evolved resemblance between an organism and another object, often an organism of another species. Mimicry may evolve between different species, or between individuals of the same species. Often, mimicry f ...

mimicry
, the act of expression, the act of resembling, and the presentation of the self. The original Ancient Greek term ''mīmēsis'' ( grc, μίμησις, label=none) derives from ''mīmeisthai'' ( grc, μιμεῖσθαι, label=none, 'to imitate'), itself coming from ''mimos'' ( μῖμος, 'imitator, actor'). In
ancient Greece Ancient Greece ( el, Ἑλλάς, Hellás) was a civilization belonging to a period of History of Greece, Greek history from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of Classical Antiquity, antiquity ( AD 600). This era wa ...
, ''mīmēsis'' was an idea that governed the creation of works of art, in particular, with correspondence to the physical world understood as a model for beauty,
truth Truth is the property of being in accord with fact A fact is something that is true True most commonly refers to truth Truth is the property of being in accord with fact or reality.Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionarytruth 2005 In ...

truth
, and the good.
Plato Plato ( ; grc-gre, Πλάτων ; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was an Classical Athens, Athenian philosopher during the Classical Greece, Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thought and the Platoni ...

Plato
contrasted ''mimesis'', or
imitation Imitation (from Latin ''imitatio'', "a copying, imitation") is an advanced behavior whereby an individual observes and replicates another's behavior. Imitation is also a form of social learning that leads to the "development of traditions, and ...

imitation
, with ''
diegesis Diegesis (; from the Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is ap ...
'', or narrative. After
Plato Plato ( ; grc-gre, Πλάτων ; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was an Classical Athens, Athenian philosopher during the Classical Greece, Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thought and the Platoni ...

Plato
, the meaning of ''mimesis'' eventually shifted toward a specifically
literary Literature broadly is any collection of written Writing is a medium of human communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is the act of developing Semantics, meaning among Subject (philosophy), entities ...
function in ancient Greek society. One of the best-known modern studies of mimesis—understood in literature as a form of
realism Realism, Realistic, or Realists may refer to: In the arts *Realism (arts), the general attempt to depict subjects truthfully in different forms of the arts Arts movements related to realism include: *Classical Realism *Literary realism, a movem ...
—is
Erich Auerbach Erich Auerbach (November 9, 1892 – October 13, 1957) was a Germans, German philology, philologist and comparative literature, comparative scholar and Literary criticism, critic of literature. His best-known work is ''Mimesis: The Representat ...
's '' Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature'', which opens with a comparison between the way the world is represented in
Homer Homer (; grc, Ὅμηρος , ''Hómēros'') was an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally re ...

Homer
's ''
Odyssey The ''Odyssey'' (; grc, Ὀδύσσεια, Odýsseia, ) is one of two major ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí ...
'' and the way it appears in the Bible. Auerbach, Erich. 1953. '' Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature''. Princeton: Princeton University Press. . In addition to Plato and Auerbach, mimesis has been theorised by thinkers as diverse as
Aristotle Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτέλης ''Aristotélēs'', ; 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questio ...

Aristotle
,
Philip Sidney Sir Philip Sidney (30 November 1554 – 17 October 1586) was an English poet, courtier A courtier () is a person who is often in attendance at the court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the a ...
,
Samuel Taylor Coleridge Samuel Taylor Coleridge (; 21 October 177225 July 1834) was an , , and who, with his friend , was a founder of the in England and a member of the . He also shared volumes and collaborated with , , and . He wrote the poems ' and ', as well ...

Samuel Taylor Coleridge
,
Adam Smith Adam Smith ( 1723 – 17 July 1790) was a Scottish economist, philosopher as well as a moral philosopher Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that "involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and ...

Adam Smith
,
Gabriel Tarde Gabriel Tarde (; in full Jean-Gabriel De Tarde; 12 March 1843 – 13 May 1904) was a French Sociology, sociologist, Criminology, criminologist and Social psychology, social psychologist who conceived sociology as based on small psychological i ...
,
Sigmund Freud Sigmund Freud ( , ; born Sigismund Schlomo Freud; 6 May 1856 – 23 September 1939) was an Austrian neurologist Neurology (from el, νεῦρον (neûron), "string, nerve" and the suffix -logia, "study of") is a branch of medicine M ...

Sigmund Freud
,
Walter Benjamin Walter Bendix Schönflies Benjamin (; ; 15 July 1892 – 26 September 1940) was a German Jewish The history of the Jews in Germany goes back at least to the year 321, and continued through the Early Middle Ages (5th to 10th centuries CE) and ...

Walter Benjamin
,
Theodor Adorno Theodor is a masculine given name. It is a German form of TheodoreTheodore may refer to: Places * Theodore, Alabama, United States * Theodore, Australian Capital Territory * Theodore, Queensland, a town in the Shire of Banana, Australia * Th ...
,
Paul Ricœur Jean Paul Gustave Ricœur (; ; 27 February 1913 – 20 May 2005) was a French Philosophy, philosopher best known for combining Phenomenology (philosophy), phenomenological description with hermeneutics. As such, his thought is within the sa ...
,
Luce Irigaray Luce Irigaray (born 3 May 1930) is a Belgium, Belgian-born France, French Feminism, feminist, philosopher, linguist, Psycholinguistics, psycholinguist, psychoanalytic theory, psychoanalyst and culture theory, cultural theorist who examined the use ...
,
Jacques Derrida Jacques Derrida (; ; born Jackie Élie Derrida; See also . July 15, 1930 – October 9, 2004), born in Algeria ) , image_map = Algeria (centered orthographic projection).svg , map_caption = , image_map2 = , capital = Algiers ...
,
René Girard René Noël Théophile Girard (; ; 25 December 1923 – 4 November 2015) was a French polymath A polymath ( el, πολυμαθής, , "having learned much"; la, homo universalis, "universal human") is an individual whose knowledge spans ...

René Girard
,
Nikolas Kompridis Nikolas Kompridis (; born 1953) is a Canadian philosopher and political theory, political theorist. His major published work addresses the direction and orientation of Frankfurt School critical theory; the legacy of philosophical romanticism; and ...

Nikolas Kompridis
,
Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe (; ; 6 March 1940 – 28 January 2007) was a French philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφος, , translit=philosophos, meaning ...
, Michael Taussig,
Merlin Donald Merlin Wilfred Donald (born November 17, 1939) is a Canadian Canadians (french: Canadiens) are people identified with the country of Canada Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its Provinces and territories of ...
, and
Homi Bhabha
Homi Bhabha
.


Classical definitions


Plato

Both
Plato Plato ( ; grc-gre, Πλάτων ; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was an Classical Athens, Athenian philosopher during the Classical Greece, Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thought and the Platoni ...

Plato
and
Aristotle Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτέλης ''Aristotélēs'', ; 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questio ...

Aristotle
saw in mimesis the
representation Representation may refer to: Law and politics *Representation (politics) Political representation is the activity of making citizens "present" in public policy making processes when political actors act in the best interest of citizens. This def ...
of
nature Nature, in the broadest sense, is the natural, physical, material world or universe The universe ( la, universus) is all of space and time and their contents, including planets, stars, galaxy, galaxies, and all other forms of matter an ...

nature
, including human nature, as reflected in the dramas of the period. Plato wrote about mimesis in both ''
Ion An ion () is an atom An atom is the smallest unit of ordinary matter In classical physics and general chemistry, matter is any substance that has mass and takes up space by having volume. All everyday objects that can be touched are ...
'' and '' The Republic'' (Books II, III, and X). In ''Ion'', he states that poetry is the art of divine madness, or inspiration. Because the poet is subject to this divine madness, instead of possessing 'art' or 'knowledge' (''
techne Techne ( Greek: ; , ) is a term in philosophy that refers to making or doing. As an activity, technē is concrete, variable, and context-dependent. The term resembles the concept of '' epistēmē'' in the implication of knowledge of principles, in t ...
'') of the subject,Plato, ''
Ion An ion () is an atom An atom is the smallest unit of ordinary matter In classical physics and general chemistry, matter is any substance that has mass and takes up space by having volume. All everyday objects that can be touched are ...
'', 532c
the poet does not speak truth (as characterized by Plato's account of the Forms). As Plato has it, truth is the concern of the philosopher. As culture in those days did not consist in the solitary reading of books, but in the listening to performances, the recitals of orators (and poets), or the acting out by classical actors of tragedy, Plato maintained in his critique that theatre was not sufficient in conveying the truth.Plato, ''
Ion An ion () is an atom An atom is the smallest unit of ordinary matter In classical physics and general chemistry, matter is any substance that has mass and takes up space by having volume. All everyday objects that can be touched are ...
'', 540c
He was concerned that actors or orators were thus able to persuade an audience by rhetoric rather than by telling the truth.Plato, ''
Ion An ion () is an atom An atom is the smallest unit of ordinary matter In classical physics and general chemistry, matter is any substance that has mass and takes up space by having volume. All everyday objects that can be touched are ...
'', 535b
In Book II of ''The Republic'', Plato describes
Socrates Socrates (; ; –399 BC) was a Greek philosopher from Athens Athens ( ; el, Αθήνα, Athína ; grc, Ἀθῆναι, Athênai (pl.) ) is the capital city, capital and List of cities in Greece, largest city of Greece. Athens domi ...

Socrates
' dialogue with his pupils. Socrates warns we should not seriously regard poetry as being capable of attaining the truth and that we who listen to poetry should be on our guard against its seductions, since the poet has no place in our idea of God.Plato, ''Republic'', Book II
translated by .
Developing upon this in Book X, Plato told of Socrates' metaphor of the three beds: one bed exists as an idea made by God (the
Platonic ideal#REDIRECT Theory of forms#REDIRECT Theory of forms {{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from move {{Redirect from other capitalisation {{Redirect unprintworthy ...
{{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from move {{Redirect from other capitalisation ...
, or form); one is made by the carpenter, in imitation of God's idea; and one is made by the artist in imitation of the carpenter's.Plato
''Republic'', Book X
translated by
B. Jowett
B. Jowett
.
So the artist's bed is twice removed from the truth. Those who copy only touch on a small part of things as they really are, where a bed may appear differently from various points of view, looked at obliquely or directly, or differently again in a mirror. So painters or poets, though they may paint or describe a carpenter, or any other maker of things, know nothing of the carpenter's (the craftsman's) art, and though the better painters or poets they are, the more faithfully their works of art will resemble the reality of the carpenter making a bed, nonetheless the imitators will still not attain the truth (of God's creation). The poets, beginning with Homer, far from improving and educating humanity, do not possess the knowledge of craftsmen and are mere imitators who copy again and again images of virtue and rhapsodise about them, but never reach the truth in the way the superior philosophers do.


Aristotle

Similar to Plato's writings about mimesis, Aristotle also defined mimesis as the perfection, and imitation of nature. Art is not only imitation but also the use of mathematical ideas and symmetry in the search for the perfect, the timeless, and contrasting being with becoming. Nature is full of change, decay, and cycles, but art can also search for what is everlasting and the first causes of natural phenomena. Aristotle wrote about the idea of
four causes The four causes or four explanations are, in Aristotelian thought, four fundamental types of answer to the question "why?", in analysis Analysis is the process of breaking a complex topic or substance Substance may refer to: * Substance (Ja ...
in nature. The first, the
formal cause The four causes or four explanations are, in Aristotelian thought, four fundamental types of answer to the question "why?", in analysis Analysis is the process of breaking a complex topic or substance Substance may refer to: * Substance (Ja ...
, is like a blueprint, or an immortal idea. The second cause is the material cause, or what a thing is made out of. The third cause is the efficient cause, that is, the process and the agent by which the thing is made. The fourth, the final cause, is the good, or the purpose and end of a thing, known as ''
telos Telos (; ) is a term used by philosopher Aristotle Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτέλης ''Aristotélēs'', ; 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (f ...
''. Aristotle's ''
Poetics Poetics is the theory of literary forms and literary discourse Discourse is a generalization of the notion of a conversation Conversation is interactive communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is th ...
'' is often referred to as the counterpart to this Platonic conception of poetry. ''Poetics'' is his treatise on the subject of mimesis. Aristotle was not against literature as such; he stated that human beings are mimetic beings, feeling an urge to create texts (art) that reflect and represent reality. Aristotle considered it important that there be a certain distance between the work of art on the one hand and life on the other; we draw knowledge and consolation from tragedies only because they do not happen to us. Without this distance, tragedy could not give rise to
catharsis Catharsis (from Greek , , meaning "purification" or "cleansing" or "clarification") is the purification and purgation of emotions—particularly pity and fear—through art or any extreme change in emotion that results in renewal and restoration. ...
. However, it is equally important that the text causes the audience to identify with the characters and the events in the text, and unless this identification occurs, it does not touch us as an audience. Aristotle holds that it is through "simulated representation," mimesis, that we respond to the acting on the stage, which is conveying to us what the characters feel, so that we may with them in this way through the mimetic form of dramatic roleplay. It is the task of the dramatist to produce the tragic enactment to accomplish this empathy by means of what is taking place on stage. In short, catharsis can only be achieved if we see something that is both recognisable and distant. Aristotle argued that literature is more interesting as a means of learning than history, because history deals with specific facts that have happened, and which are contingent, whereas literature, although sometimes based on history, deals with events that could have taken place or ought to have taken place. Aristotle thought of drama as being "an imitation of an action" and of
tragedy Tragedy (from the grc-gre, τραγῳδία, ''tragōidia'', ''tragōidia'') is a genre of drama Drama is the specific Mode (literature), mode of fiction Mimesis, represented in performance: a Play (theatre), play, opera, mime, ball ...

tragedy
as "falling from a higher to a lower
estate Estate or The Estate may refer to: Law * Estate (law), a term in common law for a person's property, entitlements and obligations * Estates of the realm, a broad social category in the histories of certain countries. ** The Estates, representative ...
" and so being removed to a less ideal situation in more ''tragic'' circumstances than before. He posited the
characters Character(s) may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * Character (novel), ''Character'' (novel), a 1936 Dutch novel by Ferdinand Bordewijk * Characters (Theophrastus), ''Characters'' (Theophrastus), a classical Greek set of char ...
in tragedy as being better than the average human being, and those of comedy as being worse. Michael Davis, a translator and commentator of Aristotle writes:


Contrast to diegesis

It was also Plato and Aristotle who contrasted ''mimesis'' with ''
diegesis Diegesis (; from the Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is ap ...
'' (Greek: διήγησις). Mimesis ''shows'', rather than ''tells'', by means of directly represented action that is enacted. Diegesis, however, is the ''telling'' of the
story Story or stories may refer to: Common uses * Story, a narrative (an account of imaginary or real people and events) ** Short story, a piece of prose fiction that typically can be read in one sitting * Story, or storey, a floor or level of a build ...

story
by a narrator; the author narrates action indirectly and describes what is in the characters' minds and emotions. The narrator may speak as a particular character or may be the "invisible narrator" or even the "all-knowing narrator" who speaks from above in the form of commenting on the action or the characters. In Book III of his ''
Republic A republic () is a form of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a month ...
'' (c. 373 BC),
Plato Plato ( ; grc-gre, Πλάτων ; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was an Classical Athens, Athenian philosopher during the Classical Greece, Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thought and the Platoni ...

Plato
examines the style of poetry (the term includes comedy,
tragedy Tragedy (from the grc-gre, τραγῳδία, ''tragōidia'', ''tragōidia'') is a genre of drama Drama is the specific Mode (literature), mode of fiction Mimesis, represented in performance: a Play (theatre), play, opera, mime, ball ...

tragedy
,
epic Epic commonly refers to: * Epic poetry, a long narrative poem celebrating heroic deeds and events significant to a culture or nation * Epic film, a genre of film with heroic elements Epic or EPIC may also refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media ...
and
lyric poetry Modern lyric poetry is a formal type of poetry which expresses personal emotions or feelings, typically spoken in the first person. It is not equivalent to song lyrics, though song lyrics are often in the lyric mode, and it is also ''not'' equi ...
):Plato
''The Republic'', Book III
translated by . (Also available vi
Project Gutenberg
:
all types narrate events, he argues, but by differing means. He distinguishes between narration or report (''diegesis'') and imitation or representation (''mimesis''). Tragedy and comedy, he goes on to explain, are wholly imitative types; the
dithyramb The dithyramb ( grc, διθύραμβος, ''dithyrambos'') was an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the used in and the from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following periods: (), Dark ...
is wholly narrative; and their combination is found in
epic poetry An epic poem is a lengthy narrative poem, ordinarily involving a time beyond living memory in which occurred the extraordinary doings of the extraordinary people who, in dealings with the gods or other superhuman forces, gave shape to the mortal ...
. When reporting or narrating, "the poet is speaking in his own person; he never leads us to suppose that he is anyone else;" when imitating, the poet produces an "assimilation of himself to another, either by the use of voice or gesture."Plato, 360 BC
''The Republic'', Book III
translated by . (Also available vi
Project Gutenberg
.
In dramatic texts, the poet never speaks directly; in narrative texts, the poet speaks as himself or herself. In his ''
Poetics Poetics is the theory of literary forms and literary discourse Discourse is a generalization of the notion of a conversation Conversation is interactive communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is th ...
'', Aristotle argues that kinds of poetry (the term includes drama, flute music, and
lyre The lyre () is a string instrument that dates back to 1400 BC in ancient Greece. It is known for its use in Ancient Greece, Greek classical antiquity and later periods. The instrument was created and used earlier around 2600BCE in the middle ...

lyre
music for Aristotle) may be differentiated in three ways: according to their ''medium'', according to their ''objects'', and according to their ''mode'' or ''manner'' (section I);Aristotle, ''
Poetics Poetics is the theory of literary forms and literary discourse Discourse is a generalization of the notion of a conversation Conversation is interactive communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is th ...
'' § I
"For the medium being the same, and the objects the same, the poet may imitate by narration—in which case he can either take another personality, as Homer does, or speak in his own person, unchanged—or he may present all his characters as living and moving before us."Aristotle, ''
Poetics Poetics is the theory of literary forms and literary discourse Discourse is a generalization of the notion of a conversation Conversation is interactive communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is th ...
'' § III
Though they conceive of mimesis in quite different ways, its relation with diegesis is identical in Plato's and Aristotle's formulations. In
ludology Game studies, or ludology (etymologically 'game logic'), is the study of games, the act of playing them, and the players and cultures surrounding them. It is a field of cultural studies that deals with all types of games throughout history. This f ...
, mimesis is sometimes used to refer to the self-consistency of a represented world, and the availability of in-game rationalisations for elements of the gameplay. In this context, mimesis has an associated grade: highly self-consistent worlds that provide explanations for their puzzles and game mechanics are said to display a higher degree of mimesis. This usage can be traced back to the essay "Crimes Against Mimesis". This is a reformatted version of a set of articles originally posted to
Usenet Usenet () is a worldwide distributed discussion system available on computers. It was developed from the general-purpose Unix-to-Unix Copy (UUCP) dial-up Dial-up Internet access is a form of Internet access Internet access is the ability of ...
: * * * *


Dionysian ''imitatio''

Dionysian ''imitatio'' is the influential
literary method Literature broadly is any collection of Writing, written work, but it is also used more narrowly for writings specifically considered to be an art form, especially prose fiction, drama, and poetry. In recent centuries, the definition has expande ...
of imitation as formulated by Greek author
Dionysius of Halicarnassus Dionysius of Halicarnassus ( grc, Διονύσιος Ἀλεξάνδρου Ἁλικαρνασσεύς, ; – after 7 BC) was a Greek historian Hellenic historiography (or Greek historiography) involves efforts made by Greeks to track and r ...
in the 1st century BC, who conceived it as technique of
rhetoric Rhetoric () is the Art (skill), art of persuasion, which along with grammar and logic (or dialectic – see Martianus Capella), is one of the Trivium, three ancient arts of discourse. Rhetoric aims to study the techniques writers or sp ...
: emulating, adapting, reworking, and enriching a source text by an earlier author.Ruthven (1979) pp. 103–4Jansen (2008) Dionysius' concept marked a significant depart from the concept of ''mimesis'' formulated by
Aristotle Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτέλης ''Aristotélēs'', ; 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questio ...

Aristotle
in the 4th century BC, which was only concerned with "imitation of nature" rather than the "imitation of other authors." Latin orators and rhetoricians adopted the literary method of Dionysius' ''imitatio'' and discarded Aristotle's ''mimesis''.


Modern usage


Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Referring to it as ''imitation'', the concept of mimesis was crucial for
Samuel Taylor Coleridge Samuel Taylor Coleridge (; 21 October 177225 July 1834) was an , , and who, with his friend , was a founder of the in England and a member of the . He also shared volumes and collaborated with , , and . He wrote the poems ' and ', as well ...

Samuel Taylor Coleridge
's theory of the
imagination Imagination is the ability to produce and simulate novel objects, sensations, and ideas in the mind The mind is the set of faculties responsible for mental Phenomenon, phenomena. Often the term is also identified with the phenomena themselves. ...

imagination
. Coleridge begins his thoughts on imitation and poetry from Plato, Aristotle, and
Philip Sidney Sir Philip Sidney (30 November 1554 – 17 October 1586) was an English poet, courtier A courtier () is a person who is often in attendance at the court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the a ...
, adopting their concept of imitation of nature instead of other writers. His departure from the earlier thinkers lies in his arguing that art does not reveal a unity of essence through its ability to achieve sameness with nature. Coleridge claims: Here, Coleridge opposes imitation to copying, the latter referring to
William Wordsworth William Wordsworth (7 April 177023 April 1850) was an English Romantic Romantic may refer to: Genres and eras * The Romantic era, an artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement of the 18th and 19th centuries ** Romantic music, of ...

William Wordsworth
's notion that poetry should duplicate nature by capturing actual speech. Coleridge instead argues that the unity of essence is revealed precisely through different materialities and media. Imitation, therefore, reveals the sameness of processes in nature.


Erich Auerbach

One of the best-known modern studies of mimesis—understood in literature as a form of
realism Realism, Realistic, or Realists may refer to: In the arts *Realism (arts), the general attempt to depict subjects truthfully in different forms of the arts Arts movements related to realism include: *Classical Realism *Literary realism, a movem ...
—is
Erich Auerbach Erich Auerbach (November 9, 1892 – October 13, 1957) was a Germans, German philology, philologist and comparative literature, comparative scholar and Literary criticism, critic of literature. His best-known work is ''Mimesis: The Representat ...
's '' Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature'', which opens with a famous comparison between the way the world is represented in
Homer Homer (; grc, Ὅμηρος , ''Hómēros'') was an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally re ...

Homer
's ''
Odyssey The ''Odyssey'' (; grc, Ὀδύσσεια, Odýsseia, ) is one of two major ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí ...
'' and the way it appears in the Bible. From these two seminal texts—the former being Western and the latter having been written by various Middle Eastern writers—Auerbach builds the foundation for a unified theory of representation that spans the entire history of Western literature, including the Modernist novels being written at the time Auerbach began his study.


Walter Benjamin

In his essay, "On The Mimetic Faculty"(1933) Walter Benjamin outlines connections between mimesis and
sympathetic magic Sympathetic magic, also known as imitative magic, is a type of magic Magic or Magick may refer to: * Ceremonial magic, encompasses a wide variety of rituals of magic * Chaos magic#REDIRECT Chaos magic {{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from m ...
, imagining a possible origin of
astrology Astrology is a pseudoscience that claims to divination, divine information about human affairs and terrestrial events by studying the movements and relative positions of Celestial objects in astrology, celestial objects. Astrology has be ...
arising from an interpretation of human birth that assumes its correspondence with the apparition of a seasonally rising constellation augurs that new life will take on aspects of the myth connected to the star.


Luce Irigaray

Belgian feminist
Luce Irigaray Luce Irigaray (born 3 May 1930) is a Belgium, Belgian-born France, French Feminism, feminist, philosopher, linguist, Psycholinguistics, psycholinguist, psychoanalytic theory, psychoanalyst and culture theory, cultural theorist who examined the use ...
used the term to describe a form of resistance where women imperfectly imitate stereotypes about themselves to expose and undermine such stereotypes.


Michael Taussig

In ''Mimesis and Alterity'' (1993),
anthropologist An anthropologist is a person engaged in the practice of anthropology Anthropology is the of ity, concerned with , , , and , in both the present and past, including . studies patterns of behaviour, while studies cultural meaning, including ...

anthropologist
Michael Taussig examines the way that people from one culture adopt another's nature and culture (the process of mimesis) at the same time as distancing themselves from it (the process of
alterity Alterity is a philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, existence, knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity, awareness, or understanding of someone or something, s ...
). He describes how a legendary tribe, the "White Indians" (the
Guna people The Guna, in the language itself spelled Kuna prior to a 2010 orthographic reform, are an Indigenous people of Panama Panama ( , ; es, link=no, Panamá ), officially the Republic of Panama ( es, República de Panamá), is a List of tra ...
of
Panama Panama ( , ; es, link=no, Panamá ), officially the Republic of Panama ( es, República de Panamá), is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several ...

Panama
and
Colombia Colombia ( , ; ), officially the Republic of Colombia, is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by conv ...

Colombia
), have adopted in various representations figures and images reminiscent of the white people they encountered in the past (without acknowledging doing so). Taussig, however, criticises anthropology for reducing yet another culture, that of the Guna, for having been so impressed by the exotic technologies of the whites that they raised them to the status of gods. To Taussig this
reductionism Reductionism is any of several related Philosophy, philosophical ideas regarding the associations between Phenomenon, phenomena, which can be described in terms of other simpler or more fundamental phenomena. It is also described as an intellectu ...
is suspect, and he argues this from both sides in his ''Mimesis and Alterity'' to see values in the
anthropologist An anthropologist is a person engaged in the practice of anthropology Anthropology is the of ity, concerned with , , , and , in both the present and past, including . studies patterns of behaviour, while studies cultural meaning, including ...

anthropologist
s' perspective while simultaneously defending the independence of a lived culture from the perspective of anthropological reductionism.


René Girard

In '' Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World'' (1978),
René Girard René Noël Théophile Girard (; ; 25 December 1923 – 4 November 2015) was a French polymath A polymath ( el, πολυμαθής, , "having learned much"; la, homo universalis, "universal human") is an individual whose knowledge spans ...
posits that human behavior is based upon mimesis, and that imitation can engender pointless conflict. Girard notes the productive potential of competition: "It is because of this unprecedented capacity to promote competition within limits that always remain socially, if not individually, acceptable that we have all the amazing achievements of the modern world," but states that competition stifles progress once it becomes an end in itself: "rivals are more apt to forget about whatever objects are the cause of the rivalry and instead become more fascinated with one another."


Roberto Calasso

In '' The Unnameable Present,'' Calasso outlines the way that mimesis, called "Mimickry" by
Joseph Goebbels Paul Joseph Goebbels (; 29 October 1897 – 1 May 1945) was a German Nazi Nazism (), officially National Socialism (german: Nationalsozialismus; ), is the ideology An ideology () is a set of beliefs or philosophies attributed ...
—though it is a universal human ability—was interpreted by the
Third Reich Nazi Germany, (lit. "National Socialist State"), ' (lit. "Nazi State") for short; also ' (lit. "National Socialist Germany") officially known as the German Reich from 1933 until 1943, and the Greater German Reich from 1943 to 1945, was ...
as being a sort of original sin attributable to "the Jew." Thus, an objection to the tendency of human beings to mimic one another instead of "just being themselves" and a complementary, fantasized desire to achieve a return to an eternally static pattern of predation by means of "
will Will may refer to: Common meanings * Will and testament A will or testament is a legal document that expresses a person's (testator A testator () is a person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or at ...
" expressed as systematic mass-murder became the metaphysical argument (underlying circumstantial, temporally contingent arguments deployed opportunistically for propaganda purposes) for perpetrating the
Holocaust The Holocaust, also known as the Shoah, was the genocide Genocide is the intentional action to destroy a people—usually defined as an ethnic, national, racial, or religious Religion is a social system, social-cultural syst ...
amongst the Nazi elite. Insofar as this issue or this purpose was ever even explicitly discussed in print by Hitler's inner-circle, in other words, this was the justification (appearing in the essay "Mimickry" in a war-time book published by Joseph Goebbels). The text suggests that a radical failure to understand the nature of mimesis as an innate human trait or a violent aversion to the same, tends to be a diagnostic symptom of the totalitarian or fascist character if it is not, in fact, the original unspoken occult impulse that animated the production of totalitarian or fascist movements to begin with. Calasso's argument here echoes, condenses and introduces new evidence to reinforce one of the major themes of
Adorno Theodor W. Adorno (; ; born Theodor Ludwig Wiesengrund; September 11, 1903 – August 6, 1969) was a German philosopher, sociology, sociologist, psychologist, Musicology, musicologist, and composer known for his critical theory of society. ...

Adorno
and ’s '' Dialectic of the Enlightenment'' (1944)'','' which was itself in dialog with earlier work hinting in this direction by
Walter Benjamin Walter Bendix Schönflies Benjamin (; ; 15 July 1892 – 26 September 1940) was a German Jewish The history of the Jews in Germany goes back at least to the year 321, and continued through the Early Middle Ages (5th to 10th centuries CE) and ...

Walter Benjamin
who died during an attempt to escape the
gestapo The (), abbreviated An abbreviation (from Latin ''brevis'', meaning ''short'') is a shortened form of a word or phrase, by any method. It may consist of a group of letters, or words taken from the full version of the word or phrase; for ...

gestapo
. Calasso insinuates and references this lineage throughout the text. The work can be read as a clarification of their earlier gestures in this direction, written while the Holocaust was still unfolding. Calasso’s earlier book '' The Celestial Hunter,'' written immediately prior to '' The Unnamable Present,'' is an informed and scholarly speculative cosmology depicting the possible origins and early prehistoric cultural evolution of the human mimetic faculty. In particular, the books first and fifth chapters ("In The Time of the Great Raven" and "Sages & Predators") focuses on the terrain of mimesis and its early origins, though insights in this territory appear as a motif in every chapter of the book.


See also

*
Similarity (philosophy) In philosophy, similarity or resemblance is a relation between objects that constitutes how much these objects are alike. Similarity comes in degrees: e.g. oranges are more similar to apples than to the moon. It is traditionally seen as an internal ...


References


Classical sources


Citations


Bibliography

* Auerbach, Erich . 1953. '' Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature'' . Princeton: Princeton UP. . * 1983. ''Biographia Literaria'', vol. 1, edited by J. Engell and W. J. Bate. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP. . * Davis, Michael. 1999. ''The Poetry of Philosophy: On Aristotle's Poetics'' . South Bend, IN: St Augustine's P. . * Elam, Keir. 1980. ''The Semiotics of Theatre and Drama'' , New Accents series. London: Methuen. . * Gebauer, Gunter, and Christoph Wulf.
992 Year 992 ( CMXCII) was a leap year starting on FridayA leap year starting on Friday is any year with 366 days (i.e. it includes 29 February) that begins on Friday 1 January and ends on Saturday 31 December. Its dominical letters hence are CB. ...
1995. ''Mimesis: Culture—Art—Society'' , translated by D. Reneau. Berkeley, CA: U of California Press. . *. 2008. ''Mimesis and Theory: Essays on Literature and Criticism, 1953–2005'', edited by R. Doran. Stanford: Stanford University Press. . * Halliwell, Stephen. 2002. ''The Aesthetics of Mimesis. Ancient Texts and Modern Problems'' . Princeton. . * Kaufmann, Walter . 1992. ''Tragedy and Philosophy'' . Princeton: Princeton UP. . * Lacoue-Labarthe, Philippe. 1989. ''Typography: Mimesis, Philosophy, Politics,'' edited by C. Fynsk. Cambridge: Harvard UP. . * Lawtoo, Nidesh. 2013. ''The Phantom of the Ego: Modernism and the Mimetic Unconscious.'' East Lansing: Michigan State UP. . *Miller, Gregg Daniel. 2011. ''Mimesis and Reason: Habermas's Political Philosophy''. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. * Pfister, Manfred.
977 Year 977 ( CMLXXVII) was a common year starting on Monday A common year starting on Monday is any non-leap year A leap year (also known as an intercalary year or year) is a that contains an additional day (or, in the case of a , a month) ...
1988. ''The Theory and Analysis of Drama'' , translated by J. Halliday, European Studies in English Literature series. Cambridige: Cambridge UP. . * Potolsky, Matthew. 2006. ''Mimesis.'' London: Routledge. . * Prang, Christoph. 2010. "Semiomimesis: The influence of semiotics on the creation of literary texts. Peter Bichsel's Ein Tisch ist ein Tisch and Joseph Roth's Hotel Savoy." ''
Semiotica ''Semiotica'' is an academic journal An academic or scholarly journal is a periodical publication Periodical literature (also called a periodical publication or simply a periodical) is a category of serial publications that appear in a new ed ...
'' (182):375–96. *Sen, R. K. 1966. ''Aesthetic Enjoyment: Its Background in Philosophy and Medicine''. Calcutta: University of Calcutta. *—— 2001. ''Mimesis''. Calcutta: Syamaprasad College. * Sörbom, Göran. 1966. ''Mimesis and Art'' . Uppsala. * Snow, Kim, Hugh Crethar, Patricia Robey, and John Carlson. 2005. "Theories of Family Therapy (Part 1)." As cited in "Family Therapy Review: Preparing for Comprehensive Licensing Examination." 2005. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. . * . 1980. ''A History of Six Ideas: An Essay in Aesthetics'' , translated by C. Kasparek . The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff. . * Taussig, Michael . 1993. ''Mimesis and Alterity: A Particular History of the Senses'' . London: Routledge. . * Tsitsiridis, Stavros. 2005. "Mimesis and Understanding. An Interpretation of Aristotle's 'Poetics' 4.1448b4-19." ''
Classical Quarterly The Classical Association is a British learned society A learned society (; also known as a learned academy, scholarly society, or academic association) is an organization that exists to promote an discipline (academia), academic discipline, pr ...
'' (55):435–46.


External links


Plato's Republic II, transl. Benjamin Jowett





The Infinite Regress of Forms
Plato's recounting of the "bedness" theory involved in the bed metaphor


University of Barcelona ''Mimesi'' (Research on Poetics & Rhetorics in Catalan Literature)

Mimesislab
Laboratory of Pedagogy of Expression of the Department of Educational Design of the university "Roma Tre"
"Mimesis"
an article by for the ''Dictionary of History of Ideas''
"Mimesis"
2021, an article by María Antonia González Valerio for th
Online Encyclopedia Philosophy of Nature
doi: https://doi.org/10.11588/oepn.2019.0.79538. {{Authority control
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