Presenter: Professor Nancy Worman (Barnard), RD Milns Visiting Professor for 2016

While tragedy confronts the body in pain as an aesthetic object, Aristotle conceives of plot as an embodied form that ought to be ‘good for seeing’ (eusynoptos) and yet independent of actual viewing in the civic theater. In fact, this ‘body’ of the plot stands in important counterpoint, I shall argue, to Aristotle’s pervasive disdain for tragic enactment before a weak and corrupt audience. His emphasis on unity, balance, and completion as the ‘bodily’ characteristics of this form resonates ideologically in contrast to the somatics of actors and the multifarious crowd, a tension between the specific material and historical setting of the Poetics' own composition and the pointed ahistoricity of Aristotle's text. Since he is writing during a period marked by the dissemination and proliferation of productions and thus the ascendancy of actors, a key feature of tragedy’s first canonization in Athens (350s-330s BC), his theoretical resistance to the historical moment bears some fuller consideration.