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On Poetry

By Giovanni Antonio Viperano

On Poetry

On Poetry

By Giovanni Antonio Viperano

A significant Renaissance work on poetics, covering the historical development of poetical theory, and the practicalities of reading and writing poetry.

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Available as: Hardback

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ISBN: 9780227678961

Specifications: 236x157mm, 212pp

Published: July 1987


Knowledge of 16th century poetics has grown very slowly in the English-speaking world, and much that has been written on the subject reflects the critical preconceptions of our own age. Yet it is the 16th century's own preconceptions which are so necessary and useful to our understanding of then artistry and artistic achievement of the literary works of that period. It is important for us to know firsthand what the literary perceptions of 16th century writers and readers were, because that century stands squarely in the middle of the greatest outpouring of literature in Western history – the early modern, pre-Romantic period.

To help answer this need, this major work of Renaissance literary criticism is now available in a new English translation, based on the revised edition of 1606. Unlike the works of certain of his contemporaries, Viperano's De Poetica is not primarily concerned with defending poetry as a superior literary form – rather, he focuses on the historical aspects of the development of poetry, the theoretical bases of poetic art, and the practical matters concerning the reading and writing of poems. It is the fullness and breadth of his poetics along with a refreshing conciseness which recommend Viperano to the modern student as a guide to the attitudes of 16th and 17th century Western Europeans towards literature.

The Author to the Reader

Book I
I. On the name and significance of poetry
II. On the origin and merits of poetry
III. Concerning the poet
IV. On the matter of the poet
V. On the purpose of the poet
VI. On the meaning of poem and poetry
VII. Concerning the kinds of poetry
VIII. On imitation or the story [fabula]
IX. On the structure of the story
X. On episodes and digressions
XI. On the forms of the story [fabula]
XII. On the parts of the story
XIII. On the method of making fiction
XIV. Concerning marvelous events in fiction
XV. On decorum
XVI. On verse [carmen]
XVII. On the embellishment of poetic style
XVIII. Why it is more important to pay attention to imitation than to verse
XIX. On the beauty of a poem

Book II
I. On the differences between poems
II. On the epic
III. What some require in the epic
IV. On the nature or form of the epic
V. On the parts of the epic
VI. Where the narrative of the epic ought to begin
VII. What precepts ought to be especially observed in narrating
VIII. On tragedy
IX. On the nature and form of tragedy
X. On the parts of tragedy
XI. Whether tragedy or epic is the more excellent
XII. On the origin of comedy and its species
XIII. On the meaning and definition of comedy
XIV. On the form of comedy
XV. On the parts of comedy
XVI. Tragedy and comedy are compared, and it is explained what tragicomedy is

Book III
I. On satires
II. How satyrs were at first put into tragedy and were subsequently excluded
III. On the satyric story
IV. Whether comedy had satyrs
V. On Latin satire
VI. On the mime
VII. On bucolic poetry
VIII. What bucolic poetry is, and what and how many are its parts
IX. On the melic or lyric poem
X. Whether there is any imitation in the lyric or how many parts the lyric poem has
XI. On the lyric chorus
XII. On the dithyrambic

Giovanni Antonio Viperano (1535–1610) was born in Messina, Sicily. He was educated by the Jesuits, and excelled in rhetoric, philosophy and other branches of the humanities. Although often plagued by ill-health, he became renowned as a brilliant scholar and teacher. Although best known to his contemporaries as a writer on history, he also wrote on political theory, philosophy, biographical theory and theology, as well as literary criticism.