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Paraphrase. Cleanth Brooks, “The Heresy of Paraphrase” (1947) the resistance which any good poem sets up against all attempts to paraphrase it.

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Presentation on theme: "Paraphrase. Cleanth Brooks, “The Heresy of Paraphrase” (1947) the resistance which any good poem sets up against all attempts to paraphrase it."— Presentation transcript:

1 Paraphrase

2 Cleanth Brooks, “The Heresy of Paraphrase” (1947) the resistance which any good poem sets up against all attempts to paraphrase it.

3 For the imagery and the rhythm are not merely the instruments by which this fancied core-of-meaning-which- can-be-expressed-in-a-paraphrase is directly rendered. Even in the simplest poem their mediation is not positive and direct. Indeed, whatever statement we may seize upon as incorporating the ‘meaning’ of the poem, immediately the imagery and the rhythm seem to set up tensions with it, warping and twisting it, qualifying and revising it.

4 The ‘content’ of the poems is various, and if we attempt to find one quality of content which is shared by all the poems – a ‘poetic’ subject matter or diction or imagery – we shall find that we have merely confused the issues. For what is it to be poetic? Is the schoolroom of Yeats’s poem poetic or unpoetic? Is Shakespeare’s “new-borne babe / Striding the blast” poetic whereas the idiot of his “Life is the tale tolde by an idiot” is un-poetic?

5 If we are to proceed at all, we must draw a sharp distinction between the attractiveness or beauty of any particular item taken as such and the “beauty” of the poem considered as a whole. The latter is the effect of the total pattern, and of a kind of pattern which can incorporate within itself items intrinsically beautiful or ugly, attractive or repulsive. Unless one asserts the primacy of the pattern, a poem becomes merely a bouquet of intrinsically beautiful items.

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7 But though it is in terms of structure that we must describe poetry, the term “structure” is certainly not altogether satisfactory as a term. One means by it something far more internal than the metrical pattern, say, or than the sequence of images. The structure meant is certainly not “form” in the conventional sense in which we think of form as a kind of envelope which “contains” the “content.” The structure obviously is everywhere conditioned by the nature of the material which goes into the poem. The nature of the material sets the problem to be solved, and the solution is the ordering of the material.

8 The conventional terms are much worse than inadequate: they are positively misleading in their implication that the poem constitutes a “statement” of some sort, the statement being true or false, and expressed more or less clearly or eloquently or beautifully; for it is from this formula that most of the common heresis about poetry derive.

9 "a penny saved is a penny earned“ "penny wise, pound foolish"

10 Graham Harman, Weird Realism (2012) While the annoying reversibility of proverbs provides a convenient target for his comical analysis, the problem is not limited to proverbs, but extends across the entire feild of literal statement. Indeed, we might speak of the inherent supidity of all content, a more threatening result than the limited assult on proverbial wisdom.

11 There is no reason to think that any philosophial statement has an inherently closer relationship with reality than its opposite, since reality is not made of statements.... Žižek’s comical translation of (Hamlet) turns out to be stupid not because the original poem is stupid, and not because the translation misunderstands (the passage), but because all content is inevitably stupid. And content is stupid because reality itself is not a content.

12 No literal statement is congruent with reality itself, just as no handling of a tool is the same thing as that tool in the plentitude of its reality.

13 The inability to make the thing-in-themselves directly present does not forbid us from having indirect access to them. The inherent stupidity of all content does not mean the inherent impossiblity of all knowledge, since knowledge need not be discursive and direct.

14 He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart. - Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart (1958)

15 He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart. 1)The simpleton: There was so much pressure on us that we couldn’t hold it together! (the subtly of setting a knife on something versus cutting it is ignored as are the “things” which are vital to a community.) 2) Too-personal: The oppressive nature of the regime caused such a distressing amount of inner turmoil amongst us that we started turning against each other. This has never happened to me because I value my heritage and tradition and nothing will get in my way of cherishing them. (missing Achebe’s distance from his subjects which helps him to show both good and bad sides) 3) The over-explainer: The values and customs that we used to hold dear such as passing down planting rights from father to son and our religious customs like the harvest festival which were a vital part of developing a sense of community among us were challenged by the new ideologies brought by our opressors such as Christianity and a rigid sense of personal property which you could see in that example of the motor bike so what used to be taken for granted is now questioned and we are the worse off for it. (misses Achebe’s sense of economy and elegance)

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17 When you reflect upon all the possibilities it’s easy to see how what normally goes unnoticed can become the center of attention. Pause and examine these letters—their shapes are not unappealing.The sounds we make when we say these words out loud also exhibit fascinating features. The poet concurs. But, unlike ordinary folk, she wants to draw our attention to these articulations as much as to the ideas her words express. Instead of doing it with a scream or a whisper, in bold or colorful print, the poet invokes nonlinguistic devices to do so—for example, a rhyme schema. That ‘bum’ rhymes with ‘gum’ reveals nothing about their status as words. Sometimes rhymes or alliterations get created accidentally.When this happens a speaker might create an unintended association. To rectify these mishaps he might rearticulate his message, perhaps with a different pronunciation of the same words or with different words that convey the same content. In such circumstances, there is no intention for the discourse to be about those articulations. Poetry, however, is different. To grasp the poem requires a recognition that it’s partly about its own articulation. In this regard, I come full circle and agree with Cleanth Brooks when counsels us “not to split the poem between its ‘form’ and its ‘content’” (Brooks 1968, 201); and with Michael Urban when he concludes that in poetry, “form and content, or content and medium, are inseparable.The artist does not first intuit his object and then find the appropriate medium. It is rather in and through his medium that he intuits the object” (quoted in Brooks 1968, 199). And finally with Suzanne Langer (1942), who writes in her influential Philosophy in a New Key that “though the material of poetry is verbal, its import is not the literal assertion made in the words but the way the assertion is made and this involves the sound, the tempo... and the unifying all-embracing artifice of rhythm.” - The Heresy of Paraphrase:When the Medium Really Is the Message, ERNIE LEPORE (2009)


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