Poems can be universal, since they adapt forms, styles and techniques from diverse cultures and languages and so they teach us about subjects like human vulnerability. In Poetics, Aristotle makes two claims about poetry: it is mimetic, or imitative in its use of language, rhythm, and harmony, separately or in combination; and he also claims that poetry is universal. He states, “Hence poetry is something more philosophic and of graver import than history, since its statements are of the nature ether of universals, whereas those of history are singulars”, (p. 323). Aristotle believes that because poetry cannot only describe what has happened, but also what could or might happen, it teaches more than history. I agree with Aristotle opinion. The way he describes poetry being universal, something that we can all relate to and understand, makes perfect sense. Poetry lets us explore the different paths our lives can go through. It lets us imagine different scenarios and, because Aristotle mentions poetry imitating nature, we can learn from others actions and what consequences hey might have.
On the other hand, Aristotle argues that history is singular. He goes on to say, “The distinction between historian and poet is not in the one writing prose and the other verse-you might put the work of Herodotus into verse, and it would still be a species of history, it consists really in this, that the one describes the thing that has been, and the other a kind of thing that might be”, (p. 2323). Aristotle proclaims that History can be one-sided and I agree. There are two sides to History and the difference between one side and another can be very extreme.
For example: the history of the Panama Canal. The way Panamanian see it, the US shouldn’t have taken over the Canal and ;invaded” Panama, and most Americans would argue that it was their right, since they helped build it. This is the perfect example of how even though there’s more than one version of the truth when it comes to history, it can also be very single-sided because what is written on history books depends on which side you’re standing. Despite Aristotle arguing in favor of poetry, I believe that both poetry and history are equally important.
Poetry is both universal and mimetic, meaning that it invites us to imagine its subject matter as real while acknowledging that it is in fact fictional. It helps us picture scenarios and expand our imaginations and not only that, but it shows us how much we’ve evolved. And history teaches us about our past and the consequences in the actions of those before us, which is of great importance, since repeating humanities past mistakes would be fatal. Given Dorothy Ellison’s peculiar take on society and art, I believe she would agree with Aristotle.
In This Is Our World, Dorothy Allison expresses her controversial thoughts in art and stating more than once that she believes in telling stories no one else dares and creating more questions than answers. However, I believe that Aristotle and Allison would share the same opinion because in This is Our World Allison states, “Those pictures tell me stories -my own and others, scary stories sometimes, but more often simply everyday stories, what happened in that place at that time to those people”, (p. 46, This Is Our World).
Dorothy Allison believes in art ailing it’s audience different stories and helping us question society and our knowledge, something that resonates with Aristotle believes. Despite Aristotle and Dorothy Ellison’s opinions about history are controversial, I can understand why they think poetry can teach us more. In early civilizations, art was the only way for people to express themselves and this was their way of documenting their surroundings and current events. Art helps understand other human beings and what affects their lives.
Not only that, but art can take some many different arms, it reaches a very broad audience. However, one cannot compare what art and history teach us, because ultimately, we can learn a lot from both and I believe both are equally important for our society to thrive. From art, we learn about what motivated other human beings and what they believed in. And even though this is all found in history books, it was discovered mainly via different art forms. Poetry, for example, goes a long way back, as it is suspected that it predates literacy.
From the Indian Veda to the Odyssey, it appears otter has been composed as an aid to memorization and communication. Poetry has always been there for mankind, helping us develop and express ourselves, and history, is the way he document our past so those after us can learn. Ultimately, what we get from either poetry or history depends on what we’re looking for. Both have been helping mankind for a very long time and in different ways and both are helpful in documenting events. Poetry and history will always have an effect in our lives and how deep that effect is depends completely in ourselves.