Is it accurate to characterize Aristotle's Poetics as the first work of literary criticism, or does something earlier than this survive—fragmented or otherwise?
Poetics goes through what a work of literature is, defines them in terms of two types (epic and dramatic), as well as giving us a glimpse of the 'fringe' (science treatises in verse, the authors of which were known as 'poetes'). He also gives his theory of what makes a good character, what makes a good plot, et cetera. That's all incredibly handy.
I've read a lot of early Chinese literature, and I've never read anything half as sophisticated or methodical in terms of literary thought. Is there anything that might have been written earlier?