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Literature Glossary

Don’t be an oxymoron. Know your literary terms.

Over 200 literary terms, Shmooped to perfection.

Mimesis

Definition:

Greek lovers, we've got the term for you. Mimesis is a Greek word that means to imitate. What does this have to do with literature, you ask?

Good question. Way back when, a nobody named Plato (okay, okay, he was kind of a big deal) thought that all art—sculpture, poetry, music, you name it—was an imitation of life and nature.

Over the years, different literary critics have adopted the term, and it has taken on a life of its own. So just remember this: when you hear someone mention mimesis when they're talking about a work of literature, they're probably talking about how a book does or doesn't represent real, everyday life and nature.

If you're hungry for more mimesis (and let's face it: who isn't?), check out literary critic Erich Auerbach's 1946 book called Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature.