A topic that has become increasingly central to the study of art, performance and literature, the term mimesis has long been used to refer to the relationship between an image and its ‘real’ original. However, recent theorists have extended the concept, highlighting new perspectives on key concerns, such as the nature of identity.
Matt Potolsky presents a clear introduction to this potentially daunting concept, examining:
- the foundations of mimetic theory in ancient philosophy, from Plato to Aristotle
- three key versions of mimesis: imitatio or rhetorical imitation, theatre and theatricality, and artistic realism
- the position of mimesis in modern theories of identity and culture, through theorists such as Freud, Lacan, Girard and Baudrillard
- the possible future of mimetic theory in the concept of ‘memes’, which connects evolutionary biology and theories of cultural reproduction.
A multidisciplinary study of a term rapidly returning to the forefront of contemporary theory, Mimesis is a welcome guide for readers in such fields as literature, performance and cultural studies.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Approaching Mimesis Part 1: Foundations 1. Plato's Republic The Invention of the Image. Poetry and Censorship: Books Two and Three. Mirrors and Forms: Book Ten. Poetry and the City 2. Aristotle’s Poetics Second Nature. Tragedy, Plot, and Reason. The Tragic Effect Part 2: Three Versions of Mimesis 3. Imitatio: Rhetorical Imitation Mimesis as a Cultural Practice. Roman Echoes. Ancients and Moderns. Genius, Originality, and the Anxiety of Influence 4. Theatre and Theatricality Spectacle and Spectator. Theatrum Mundi. Acting, Naturally. 'The Never Ending Show'. 5. Realism The Grapes of Zeuxis. Reflection and Convention. Realism and Sincerity. Pygmalion's Folly: Anti-Realism. Part 3: Mimesis in Modern Theory 6. Mimesis and Identity Psychic Mimesis. Identification: Freud. The Mirror Stage: Lacan. Performing Race and Gender. 7. Mimesis and Culture Sympathetic Magic. Mimicry and the Mimetic Faculty. Mimetic Desire: Girard Simulacra and Hyperreality. Conclusion: Memetics
Matthew Potolsky is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Utah where he teaches literary theory and modern British and comparative literature. He is co-editor of Perennial Decay: On the Aesthetics and Politics of Decadence (1999) and has published on theory and late nineteenth century writing.