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  The term mimesis (Greek, ‘imitation’) was first applied to the arts by Aristotle, who described it in his treatise Poetics as ‘the imitation of an action’, that is, the process of selection and representation applied to reality by the creative mind to give it forceful artistic expression. Aristotle confined his description to tragedy, but clearly mimesis is at the root of every art. All arts involve the ordering of reality to produce a kind of tareality.

The concept has been much discussed by Western critics and artists since Aristotle\'s time, particularly with relation to literature, and two opposing views have developed. On the one side, it is believed that because the arts present images of reality rather than reality itself, they are essentially fraudulent and not worthy of attention. This attitude has been particularly prevalent among Marxist artists and critics in this century. The second view maintains that the selected and refracted version of reality which the arts present is more real than real: in effect, a break-through into some kind of metaphysical sublimity. This concept was particularly favoured in the Far East in the 17th and 18th centuries, and in the ‘art for art\'s sake’ Western movements of the 19th century.

Another approach, favoured by Western thinkers during the Renaissance and by some literary critics of the present century (notably Georg Lukács), is to ask whether questions of what mimesis is, and does, are not rather questions about the nature of reality itself. KMcL



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