Female Deer Do Not Have Horns.

I missed yesterday, because I got home from work at about 9:30, after the kids had gone to bed, having left at 6:45 in the morning, before the kids had gotten out of bed; knowing that an early day starts the night before I didn’t do much but go to bed myself. Well, flip through our new Lord of the Rings (the boy and I are on The Fellowship of the Ring now and just got a handsome single-volume edition in the mail yesterday), and then go to bed.

But I almost got this up here last night, and would have, if I had brought my computer home from the office, or anything, for that matter, other than my tired frame.

From Aristotle’s Poetics:

[regarding faults in poetic composition]

ἔλαττον γὰρ εἰ μὴ ᾔδει ὅτι ἔλαφος θήλεια κέρατα οὐκ ἔχει ἢ εἰ ἀμιμήτως ἔγραψεν.

For it is a less egregious (fault) not to know that a female deer does not have horns than to depict one unconvincingly.

If I ever start a school, this might be the motto. That or maybe two or three other dozen things. 🙂

By “unconvincingly” (ἀμιμήτως) of course he means “unmimetically”, “mimetic” meaning “imitative”, and therefore “unmimetically” meaning “in such a way as not to represent what is readily intelligible by the viewer as reality.”

μίμησις—mimēsis—is the key to great art. It is that quality of art by which art overcomes the limits of argumentation and the filter of ideology which interposes itself between the sensible phenomena we encounter and our acceptance or rejection of them as propositions.

Argumentation is poorer than mimēsis in changing the heart precisely because argumentation speaks to the head, and our heads are diseased with ideology.

But the heart can and must change when it encounters a new truth. And when mimetic art “holds, as ’twere, the mirror up to nature, shows virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure,” then do we come into unfiltered contact with truth, unimpeded by the stupid brain.

Thanks, dear reader, for bringing your stupid brain to converse with my stupid brain.


About philokalos

Philologist, historian, and lover of great books, I started this blog to keep myself alert to the beauty of what I see amid the demands of my work.
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