Document Type


Date of Award



Aristotle, Poetics, Poetry, Early works to 1800, al-Shiʻr

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


English, General Literature, and Rhetoric

First Advisor

Seymour M. Pitcher

Second Advisor

Mario A. Di Cesare

Third Advisor

Bernard F. Huppé




Few scholars of the Poetics are fully aware of the fact that the post-Classical history of the treatise begins in the Arabic Middle East. In the early tenth century A.D. the Poetics was translated into Arabic and, as I try to establish in this study, it was translated at least once more later in the century. Major Arabic philosophers took up the task of trying to explain, comment on, or adapt the tenets of the treatise. Of these efforts, some are extant, others are lost. Of those extant, we have the brief treatise by al-Firibi ("The Canons of Poetry") which echoes the Poetics in some ways but is in the main derivative from apocryphal sources. Two commentaries are representative of a more intensive effort to render the tenets of the treatise in the form of summary, interpretation or adaptation. The first is by Avicenna, and the second by Averroes.

Chronologically and substantially, Avicenna's Commentary has the central place in the Medieval Arabic tradition of the Poetics. In this study, I have tried to achieve two aims. In the first part, I have attempted to study Avicenna's Commentary in order to establish its-historical background--the factors that contributed to or influenced its composition--and the point of view from which Avicenna approached the Poetics. This, I believe, is requisite for understanding some of the peculiar characteristics of the Commentary, e.g., the pseudo-Aristotelian elements in it and the perspective through which Avicenna saw the Poetics.

In the second part, I have tried to present a translation of the Commentary--something that has not been done so far in any modern language. In this translation, I strived to be both accurate and mindful of the English reader, especially the one who is familiar with the Poetics only in its English versions. In the notes to the translation, I have explained Avicenna's departures from the Aristotelian text as well as some of the rather obscure points which result either from Avicenna's extremely technical language or from the inadequacy of his sources.