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Classification of Literary Theories

Classification of Literary Theories

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Published by Adenle Adepeju
A brief classification of literary theories into the M.H.Abrams template: mimetic, pragmatic, expressive and objective theories.
A brief classification of literary theories into the M.H.Abrams template: mimetic, pragmatic, expressive and objective theories.

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Published by: Adenle Adepeju on Apr 20, 2011
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: Adenle, Adepeju Temitope
Mat. No
.: 109013019
: Theory of Drama
Course Code
: ENG 85
: Discuss the theoretical viewpoint and categorize them into the appropriate categories.
“What is drama but life with the dull bits cut out.”
(Alfred Hitchcock: 1989-1980)Every art form is out to imitate one thing or the other, the difference is in what they imitate andhow high they regard each other concepts of imitation. As no art can survive without a look alike, it therefore becomes imperative, for dramatists who pride themselves as reflectors, not justto imitate but to give their plays more to project than mere imitations.Meyer Abrams grouped the various literary theories into four coordinates which summarizestheorist major concerns as mimetic (universe), pragmatic (audience), expressive (author) andobjective (text).Universe
UniverseMimetic TheoryArtist/AuthorExpressive TheoryWorks of ArtsAudiencePragmatic TheoryTextObjective Theory
 Nature creates similarities. One need only think of mimicry. The highest 
capacity for producing similarities, however, is man’s. His gift of seeing 
resemblances is nothing other than a rudiment of the powerful compulsion in former times to become and behave like something else. Perhaps there is none of his higher functions in which his mimetic faculty does not play a decisive role
 --- Walter Benjamin, "On the Mimetic Faculty" 1933Long before man learnt how to document their thought, imitation has been around, man had liveand survived purely on the strength of imitation, that is, man is imitation, imitation is man. The
word “imitation” is referred to differently in diverse cultures but one thing they can all agree to is
the fact that imitation is key to their existence. When the Greeks of the classical period wanted tocharacterize the basic nature of painting and sculpture, poetry and music, dance and theatre, i.e.things we today call works of art, most of them agreed that such things were
(insingular form
), the result of an activity they named
. Mimesis is a literary theorywhich evaluates a work of art in terms of imitation/copy which is the most ancient way of  judging any work of art in relation to reality, for this reason, all these theories treat a work of artas a photographic reproduction. Mimetic criticism insists that literary works does not reflectreality as such and as such the artist is regarded as an imitator of aspects of the observableuniverse, such as in a situation whereby a blind man is asked to touch an elephant and askedwhich animal it is he was touching and he said a snake where as he has his hands on the tail.Plato is the foremost crusader of the word in ancient Greek and every other theorist (Aristotle,Horace, Longinus, Dryden,) has either refuted or agreed with his definition of the concept. FromPlato perspective, imitation in drama is one that is influenced from the gods; one that extols thetruth and seeks universal existence. The dramatist must imitate the actions of great and noble
men. The universe itself is an imitation, or appearance, of the eternal ideas which are the locus of all value, while all other human knowledge and products are also modes of imitation. Platoequally divides his universe into three realms: the realm of ideas, the realm of particulars, and therealm of reflections of particulars (that is, art and other shadows).
In Aristotle‟s
, the various kinds of poetry are also defined as “modes of imitation” of 
human actions. Imitation is instinct based on Aristotle
and we actually take pleasure inthese imitative acts.
use of the term imitation differs from that of Plato, as for him theforms of things do not exist in another-worldly realm, but are inherent in the things themselves,so that it is no way derogatory to point out that drama imitates models in the world of sense.
Longinus “
On the Sublime
” views mimesis as sublimity which is achieved through the eminence
and excellence of language. To him, imitation is as a result of long experience, inspiration that isgotten from the imitation of Greek models who have been before as he says that great poet anddramatists who do this effectively has achieved sublimity. He identified seven sources of sublimity which is further grouped into two; inborn and art. The sublimity achieved throughinnate capability is embedded in the ability of the dramatist to grasp conceptions and have astrong passion. While the other form of sublimity achieved through art involves the properhandling of figures, noble phraseology, and dignified and spirited composition. Sublimity is thepower of choosing and combining the right element to each other to form a single body andthrough this the audiences are either attracted by the choice of ideas or by the arrangement of thecomposition. Sublimity is therefore the imitation and emulation of great writers and poets whohave been before us. A good technique is therefore required of the dramatist in other to be able toachieve astute level of mimesis through the use of imagination and embellished words as

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