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Mimesis


Mimesis (/mˈmsəs/; Ancient Greek: μίμησις (mīmēsis), from μιμεῖσθαι (mīmeisthai), "to imitate," from (mimos), "imitator, actor") is a critical and philosophical term that carries a wide range of meanings, which include imitation, representation, mimicry, imitatio, receptivity, nonsensuous similarity, the act of resembling, the act of expression, and the presentation of the self.

In ancient Greece, mimesis was an idea that governed the creation of works of art, in particular, with correspondence to the physical world understood as a model for beauty, truth, and the good. Plato contrasted mimesis, or imitation, with diegesis, or narrative. After Plato, the meaning of mimesis eventually shifted toward a specifically literary function in ancient Greek society, and its use has changed and been reinterpreted many times since then.

One of the best-known modern studies of mimesis, understood as a form of realism in literature, is Erich Auerbach's Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature, which opens with a famous comparison between the way the world is represented in Homer's Odyssey and the way it appears in the Bible. From these two seminal Western texts, Auerbach builds the foundation for a unified theory of representation that spans the entire history of Western literature, including the Modernist novels being written at the time Auerbach began his study. In art history, "mimesis", "realism" and "naturalism" are used, often interchangeably, as terms for the accurate, even "illusionistic", representation of the visual appearance of things.



  • Auerbach, Erich. 1953. Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature. Princeton: Princeton UP. .
  • Coleridge, S.T. 1983. Biographia Literaria. v.1 eds. James Engell and W. Jackson Bate. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP. .
  • Davis, Michael. 1999. The Poetry of Philosophy: On Aristotle's Poetics. South Bend, Indiana: St Augustine's P. .
  • Elam, Keir. 1980. The Semiotics of Theatre and Drama. New Accents Ser. London and New York: Methuen. .
  • Gebauer, Gunter, and Christoph Wulf. 1992. Mimesis: Culture—Art—Society. Trans. Don Reneau. Berkeley and London: U of California P, 1995. .
  • René Girard. 2008. Mimesis and Theory: Essays on Literature and Criticism, 1953–2005. Ed. by Robert Doran. Stanford: Stanford University Press. .
  • Halliwell, Stephen, The Aesthetics of Mimesis. Ancient Texts and Modern Problems, Princeton 2002. .
  • Kaufmann, Walter. 1992. Tragedy and Philosophy. Princeton: Princeton UP. .
  • Lacoue-Labarthe, Philippe. 1989. Typography: Mimesis, Philosophy, Politics, ed. Christopher Fynsk. Cambridge: Harvard UP. .
  • Lawtoo, Nidesh. 2013. The Phantom of the Ego: Modernism and the Mimetic Unconscious. East Lansing: Michigan State UP. .
  • Miller, Gregg Daniel. 2011. Mimesis and Reason: Habermas's Political Philosophy. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
  • Pfister, Manfred. 1977. The Theory and Analysis of Drama. Trans. John Halliday. European Studies in English Literature Ser. Cambridige: Cambridge UP, 1988. .
  • Potolsky, Matthew. 2006. Mimesis. London: Routledge. .
  • Prang, Christoph. 2010. Semiomimesis: The influence of semiotics on the creation of literary texts. Peter Bichsel's Ein Tisch ist ein Tisch and Joseph Roth's Hotel Savoy. In: Semiotica. Vol. 2010, Issue 182, S. 375–96.
  • Sörbom, Göran, Mimesis and Art, Uppsala 1966.
  • Snow, Kim; Crethar, Hugh; Robey, Patricia & Carlson, John. 2005. "Theories of Family Therapy (Part 1)". As cited in "Family Therapy Review: Preparing for Comprehensive Licensing Examination." 2005. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. .
  • Sen, R. K., Mimesis, Calcutta: Syamaprasad College, 2001
  • Sen, R. K., Aesthetic Enjoyment: Its Background in Philosophy and Medicine, Calcutta: University of Calcutta, 1966.
  • Tatarkiewicz, Władysław. 1980. A History of Six Ideas: An Essay in Aesthetics. Trans. Christopher Kasparek. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff. .
  • Taussig, Michael. 1993. Mimesis and Alterity: A Particular History of the Senses. London and New York: Routledge. .
  • Tsitsiridis, Stavros, "Mimesis and Understanding. An Interpretation of Aristotle's Poetics 4.1448b4-19", In: Classical Quarterly 55 (2005) 435-46.
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