Dramatic Mimesis and Civic Education in Aristotle, Cicero and Renaissance Humanism
This paper wants to address the Aristotelian analysis of the concept of mimesis from a social and cultural angle. It is going to show that mimesis is crucial if we want to understand why the institution of the theatre played such a crucial role in the civic educational programme of classical Athens. The paper’s argument is that the magic spell of theatrical imitation, its aesthetic machinery was exploited by the city for civic educational function. Dramas, and in particular tragedies helped to articulate the city’s political expectations from the citizens, and they achieved it with far better efficiency than any other medium of propaganda which was available in those days. It will first reconstruct the duality within the internal structure of the Aristotelian account of mimesis in Poetics: it will show both 1.) the aesthetic and 2.) the socio-cultural dimensions of his theory of civic initiation through dramatic imitation. In the second part it will compare this Greek cultural context with a similar context in Rome in the activity and writings of Cicero. Finally, the paper presents the Renaissance republican context of early modern Europe, which also connected politico-moral education with the idea of mimesis.