Neo-Aristotelianism

Neo-Aristotelianism: A form of critical inquiry that uses Aristotelian principles, mainly from Aristotle’s Rhetoric along with more recent analytical techniques. Booth and members of the Chicago School are commonly called Neo Aristotelians. Booth’s use of Aristotle is, very generally, threefold:

  1. A focus on the arrangement and position of forms (or parts) in a “whole” literary work and the resulting effect on the reader. For Booth, this means examining a work as openly as possible “and then devising an interpretive hypothesis as to the nature of the whole” (Borklund 82).
  2. According to Elmer Borklund, the most valuable question a Neo-Aristotelian can ask of the work is the “contribution it may make to the goals of life itself” (81). This comes from the Aristotelian concept of art as mimetic and representational and is directly linked to the proper end of human life (ethical happiness). For Booth, this translates into the connective experience between reader, author and text enacted in the process of reading. The symbolic exchange between human animals during the act of reading is a “communal building of selves” (Booth qtd in Borklund 81). In other words, reading is an integral, vital part of human life.
  3. Art reveals how the “world actually runs” because it is philosophic and community building. The mimetic, representational force of art allows humans to connect with each other on a platform of meaning and “experience closure, unity, order and balance” (Borklund 82). These are, for the most part, Aristotelian concepts and Booth uses these concepts not to enforce a unitary ideal of art, but to create a network of literary “meeting grounds” that harmonize and vitalize a community.

Work Cited

Borklund, Elmer. Contemporary Literary Critics. London and New York: St. James and St. Martin’s Press, 1977.

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