Poesis, Facere, Fiction, and the Art of Narrative

Aristotle's very notion of limits, of shape, of fashioning furnishes a crucial component not only of narrative but of literature as well. When Aristotle wrote, there was not word for literature, so he coined poesis or poetry -- that which is fashioned, shaped, given form by being given limits.

The later latinate term fiction, which derives from the Latin facere, to make, shape, give form, therefore has essentially the same root-idea as Aristotle's poesis. Poetry and fiction equally require shape and limit to achieve form.

And they do so, as Joan Didion so forcefully reminds us, to enable us to make sense of the thrum and clutter of our lives..

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Last updated: 25 September 2000