Aristotle’s lost wisdom on comedy and catharsis come to life in this philosopher’s interpretation of recovered ancient writings.
Aristotle’s Poetics was the first philosophical treatise to propound a theory of literature. But we know that what remains of this important text is incomplete. In the existing material, Aristotle tells us that he will speak of comedy, address catharsis, and give an analysis of what is funny—but these promised chapters are missing. Now, philosopher Walter Watson offers a new interpretation of the lost second book of Aristotle’s Poetics.
A document known as the Tractatus Coislinianus, first recovered in the Biblioteque Nationale in Paris in 1839, appears to be a summary of Aristotle’s second book. Based on Richard Janko’s philological reconstruction, Watson mounts a compelling philosophical argument that gives revealing context to this document and demonstrates its hidden meanings. Watson renders lucid and complete explanations of Aristotle’s ideas about catharsis, comedy, and a summary account of the different types of poetry, ideas that influenced not only Cicero’s theory of the ridiculous, but also Freud’s theory of jokes, humor, and the comic. Here, at last, Aristotle’s lost second book is found again.