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Related: art - copy - diegesis - representation - realism - realism in the visual arts - theory - verisimilitude
In the arts: realism in film - realism in literature - realism in the visual arts
Bibliography: Mimesis : The Representation of Reality in Western Literature (1946) - Erich Auerbach
Mimesis in its simplest context means imitation or representation in Greek.
Both Plato and Aristotle saw, in mimesis, the representation of nature. However, Plato thought all creation was imitation, and so God's creation was an imitation of the truth and essence of nature, and an artist's re-presentation of this God-created reality therefore was twice-removed imitation.
Aristotle thought of drama as being "an imitation of an action", that of tragedy as of "falling from a higher to a lower estate", and so being removed to a less ideal situation in more tragic circumstances than before. He posited the characters in tragedy as being better than the average human being, and those of comedy as being worse.
Aristotle's most well known work on this subject is his Poetics. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimesis [Aug 2005]
Mimesis in contrast to diegesis
It was also Plato and Aristotle who contrasted mimesis with diegesis. In diegesis it is not the form in which a work of art represents reality but that in which the author is the speaker who is describing events in the narrative he presents to the audience.
It is in diegesis that the author addresses the audience or the readership directly to express his freely creative art of the imagination, of fantasies and dreams in contrast to mimesis. Diegesis was thought of as telling, the author narrating action indirectly and describing what is in the character's mind and emotions, while mimesis is seen in terms of showing what is going on in characters' inner thoughts and emotions through his external actions. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimesis#Mimesis_in_contrast_to_diegesis [Nov 2005]
Some examples how mimesis works in the arts
In sculpture, mimesis mirrors the plasticity of an image an onlooker has with which he can empathize within a given situation. In Rodin's The Kiss, for example, the protective arms of the male and seeming trustfulness of the female figure enclosed within her partner's limbs, down to the stance of their feet, is a position all humans would recognize immediately in that the trust and truth that permeates the erotic element of the statue is that which is entailed in the relationship of any man and woman in a similar situation.
In Picasso's Guernica, the artist re-presents the destruction of life and the terror it causes in a way this kind of cubistic image lends itself to most dramatically. The fractured details of the composition, the tortured faces, the screams that may be almost audibly imagined, the terrified horse, the bull, the dismembered limbs: all these things help making the picture most memorable for the truth it brings to the observer. However, the face of the woman holding a light may be seen either as a face of stoic resignation throwing light on the devastation, or a face of luciferous evil swooping in malevolent satisfaction.
In Beethoven's "6th Symphony" (the Pastoral), music re-presents the various stages of a stay in the country, of a person's emotions and moods that are metamorphosed into movements of music most faithfully corresponding to these emotions. Thus, the pleasurable anticipation on arrival in the country; the various happy scenes of their associating with countryfolk; a shepherd's song; birdsongs; a storm and the thankfulness after it is over; all will be observed and recognised readily by the audience. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimesis#Some_examples_how_mimesis_works_in_the_arts [Jul 2006]
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