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Tasso, poetics, Aristotelian aesthetics


The relationship between Tasso's early Discorsi dell'arte poetica and his Gerusalemme liberata needs clarification for a variety of reasons. The existence of a later poetics – the Discorsi del poema eroico, which modifies and expands the earlier version – has frequently side-tracked readers into a text that more properly pertains to Tasso's later version of his epic, the Gerusalemme conquistata. The availability of the second poetics in English, while the first remains inaccessible to readers without Italian, has also encouraged this inappropriate pairing. Further, the current vogue of literary theory tends to promote a view of Tasso's poetics as an important moment in the history of ideas and the Renaissance assimilation of Aristotelian aesthetics which, though entirely valid in its own right, isolates Tasso's philosophical and critical text form his creative performance. Tasso's poetics, however, are anything but disinterested speculation; this fact requires full acknowledgment because certain basic ambitions of literary theory as a mode of discourse often obscure it.