The Aristotelian sense of mimesis (i.e., fictional representation of an evoked world through plot and characters) continues to shape modern views of literature. The medieval Arabic reception of the concept of mimesis and its closely related concept of mythos (fable, story, or plot) through Aristotle’s Poetics reveals a different conception of literature—one that this article argues is not representational but analogical. While Aristotle sees mythos/plot as forming the main vehicle through which mimesis manifests itself in poetry, mythos (khurāfa) according to the philosophers of the Islamic world was irrelevant for the poetic. This is because they understood mythos not as “plot” but as referring, on the one hand, to the fictionality and fantasticness of poetic metaphor, which they deemed inessential for the success of poetry; on the other hand, they understood mythos as “story,” in which case they relegated to it a rhetorical function of persuasion rather than a poetic function of make-believe. Fundamentally, in both the poetic and the rhetorical, mimesis was understood as the expression of the comparable, not the representation of the likeness of an evoked world. This exposes an Arabic conception of “mimesis” that reflects a literature that seeks comparisons and demands the inference of similarities from the reader.

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