Abstract I try to rejuvenate Cleanth Brooks’s old thesis about the ‘heresy of paraphrase.’ This I do by analysing a couple of well-known poems and by performing. which Mr. Cleanth Brooks has called “the heresy of paraphrase.” What Mr. Bowra does, and does very well, is to give us what the poet talks about in so far as it. “the poem, if it be a true poem, is a simulacrum of reality by being an experience rather than any mere statement about experience or any.

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The problem is the obvious one that the number of possible depth interpretations is infinite and, mutatis mutandisthe same holds for the number of probers. The wind was blowing our way, so the ship sailed rather quickly. Wittgenstein never used the expression ‘tacit knowledge’, but there is no doubt that it was on the tip of his tongue. Nevertheless, if the knowledge of faces is tacit by virtue of us perceiving them as being bigger than the sum of their parts, it seems tempting to think that the same holds for poems.

In most cases, we would have no problem identifying the nature of the object of the paraphrase. Brooks certainly would have contested their usefulness. Though Brooks applied this theory to his reading of poetry from many periods, subsequent literary scholars have suggested that the doctrine was shaped by the aesthetics of modernist literature. In contrast to this, it does not make any sense to say that we improve upon a poem by clarifying it, either by paraphrasing it or in other ways.

Heresy of paraphrase | philosophy |

Anybody knowledgeable about William Carlos Williams knows that he himself would never have said such a thing. The relationship between the intellectual and the non-intellectual paraphraze in a poem is actually far more intimate than the conventional brookks would represent it to be: The essential structure of a poem as th from the rational or logical structure of the ‘statement’ which we abstract from it resembles that of architecture or painting: In a similar fashion a face or the sound of a clarinet cannot be adequately described, but descriptions can be of aid in identifying them: However, Brooks is not completely against the fact that we need some discursive paraphraseable statements to understand in classroom about the meaning or theme of the poem.


For example, the case of king Oedipus in Sophocles Oedipus Rex.

Context produces ironic effect upon us. Concise English Dictionary London: What he did deny is that a paraphrase can paraphrade a poem or capture its essence. So if there is such a thing as paraphrasable text, Williams’s poem is, unless its soft rhythm plays a decisive role in its meaning.

In order to avoid misunderstanding, ‘textual meaning’ is not to be understood as ‘sentence meaning. But we still lack evidence for his understanding.

Faces are Gestalts and paraphrasd perhaps are poems; we have seen earlier that typical poems must be regarded as being wholes, which are greater than the sum of their parts. Poems like the one by Williams get their identity from being challenges to high modernistic poetry or even poetry as such. In the first place, it seems intuitively strange to maintain that utterances like ‘John and Mary went home’ as uttered in workaday circumstances are not really paraphrasable or that they are as difficult to paraphrase as poems by T.

A paraphrase of Einstein’s book on the theory of relativity could hardly be mistaken for the paraphrase of a novel or a book about politics. It is actually an open question as to whether we can make changes to paraphrae poem without having created a new one. In contrast to the question of the truth conditions, I will briefly discuss possible answers to the question whether it holds for all utterances, texts and suchlike, that they are somehow not fully paraphrasable.

Now, it is high time that we illustrate the thesis of heresy with an example. Let us look at some arguments against the thesis that no utterance can ever be paraphrased: In this way I hope to give Brooks’s original thesis a more solid foundation.

Brooks distinguishes scientific statement from poetic one and claim that the scientific statement cannot be paraphrasable. Consider the following lines from Ezra Pound’s ‘Canto I’ [10]which incidentally consists to a large extent of a translation of Homer’s Ulysses:. He relied on comparisons with non-verbal arts in order to shift discussion away from summarizable content:.


They show that paradigmatic examples of poems are not paraphrasable. The heretics will be left behind in the grey land broos paraphrases and empty phrases.

To be sure there are important differences between the grasping of a poem and the perception of a face.

If we say “your skin is white” for black people it creates verbal irony. Skip to main content Skip to quick search Skip to global navigation. In a poem, form and content parzphrase inseparable, that is why, poem cannot be reduced to a prose. Well, I certainly hope that my theories point in that very direction. Or, to move closer still to poetry by considering the temporal arts, the structure of a poem resembles that of a ballet or musical composition.

Johannessen thinks that our knowledge of artworks, of which the knowledge of the sounds of clarinet can be an example, is a brand of tacit knowledge, which he terms ‘knowledge by familiarity. Further, such a description would consist of a series of propositions. In more male chauvinist times than ours, paraphrasing ‘John and Mary went home’ as ‘Mary and John went home’ would perhaps not quite have captured the original. Therefore, our understanding of it cannot be entirely propositional.

Brooks thinks that a poem is not a scientific proposition. That evidence we can only get if he can rephrase it. However, if we cannot rephrase a certain poem, then we cannot describe it adequately with the aid of propositions or indeed anything else.

The Heresy of Paraphrase by Cleanth Brooks

In all probability you kept them in order to eat them at breakfast. In order to vindicate this claim, I seek inspiration in clfanth thought of certain followers of Wittgenstein. It seems intuitively plausible that a poem is typically an ambiguous text.

Let us look at another possible world example: Meaning as dramatic effect is produced by setting its tensions in motion. There must be hhe ways of finding out in an empirical fashion whether or not our understanding of non-paraphrasable poems is tacit.