It is no exaggeration to say that Aristotle's Poetics is one of the most influential documents in the history of Western tradition. Not only, after its re-discovery in the early sixteenth century, did it dominate literary theory and practice for no less than three hundred years. Even after it had lost its privileged status – first to the alternative theories of literature brought forth by the Romantic movement and then to the literary theory and practice of twentieth-century modernism – the Poetics still retained its role of the normative text in opposition to which those new theories were being formulated. It will suffice to bring to mind the explicitly non-Aristotelian theory of drama developed by Bertold Brecht to see that, even when rejected, it was the Poetics that dictated the agenda of the theorists.
This has changed in the last thirty years, with the emergence of post-modern literary theory. Although in the questioning of the notions of closure, of artistic illusion, of unity of plot the post-modern theory owes much more than it cares to admit to such modernists as Brecht or Adorno and through them to Aristotle, the damnatio memoriae it has imposed on the Poetics is so thorough that some theorists seem to be hardly aware of the very fact of its existence. This is probably why many theorists, in their privileging of emotional distancing over identification, meta-theatrality over illusion, formal and semantic openness over determinacy and closure, find their models in Chinese, Japanese, Indian, and other non-Western literary traditions rather than in ancient Greece. That is to say, in so far as Aristotle is no longer considered relevant to literary theory, Greek literary tradition too is not considered relevant. The tacit presupposition on which this attitude is based is that Aristotle's Poetics adequately represents ancient Greek literary practice.