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Aristotle's Poetics (Greek: Περὶ ποιητικῆς Peri poietikês; Latin: De Poetica; c. 335 BCE) is the earliest surviving work of Greek dramatic theory and the first extant philosophical treatise to focus on literary theory.: ix In this text Aristotle offers an account of ποιητική, which refers to poetry and more literally "the poetic art," deriving from the term for "poet; author; maker," ποιητής. Aristotle divides the art of poetry into verse drama (comedy, tragedy, and the satyr play), lyric poetry, and epic. The genres all share the function of mimesis, or imitation of life, but differ in three ways that Aristotle describes:
- Differences in music rhythm, harmony, meter, and melody.
- Difference of goodness in the characters.
- Difference in how the narrative is presented: telling a story or acting it out.
The surviving book of Poetics is primarily concerned with drama; the analysis of tragedy constitutes the core of the discussion.
Although the text is universally acknowledged in the Western critical tradition, "almost every detail about [t]his seminal work has aroused divergent opinions". Among scholarly debates on the Poetics, the three most prominent concern the meanings of catharsis and hamartia and the question of why Aristotle appears to contradict himself between chapters 13 and 14.