Cleanth Brooks, an eminent New Critic, advocates the centrality of paradox as a way of understanding and interpreting poetry, in his. This presentation is based on Cleanth Brooks’s essay “The Language of Paradox ,”, wherein Cleanth Brooks emphasizes how the language of. In the article “The Language of Paradox,” author Cleanth Brooks argues that poetry is made up of a language of paradox, meaning that poetry is made up of a .

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Cleanth Brooks’ Concept of Language of Paradox | Literary Theory and Criticism

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Irony functions as a presence in the text — the overriding context of the surrounding words that make up the poem.

Irony languabe the key to validating the poem because a test of any statement grows from the context — validating a statement demands examining the statement in the context of the poem and determining whether it is cleanhh to that context.

The image gathers up two early comparisons — that of the tapers and of the eagle clranth the dove. The individual poet is given a great deal of power, then, in the process of knowledge making and the reader is isolated from the production of meaning. In poets like Blake and Coleridge, they merge with variations in emphasis.

He neatly and contemptuously epitomizes the two main categories of secular success in the line: Donne takes neither love nor sainthood seriously, but merely exercises his wit with a cynical and bawdy lyric. Skip to main content. Irony for Brooks is “the obvious warping of a statement by the context” [6] whereas paradox is later glossed as a special kind of qualification that “involves the resolution of opposites.

Brooks ends his essay with a reading of John Donne ‘s poem The Canonizationwhich uses a paradox as its underlying metaphor. Further back, Polonius ‘ observation that “though this be madness, yet there is method in’t” is a memorable third.


Paradox in poetry means that tension at the surface of a verse can lead to apparent contradictions and hypocrisies. Studies in the Structure of Poetry Statements such as Wilde’s “I can resist anything except languave and Chesterton’s “spies do not look like spies” [2] are examples of rhetorical paradox.

The comparisons in this poem take off from the well-worn Petrarchan conventionalities and are entirely different. Johns Hopkins University Press, Yet the poet goes on to say: Irony Although paradox and irony as New Critical tools for reading poetry are often conflated, they are independent poetical devices. The importance of the broosk of the second and third stanzas of the poem is that the poet changes the tone of the poem in them.

It is however, not possible that the metaphors will fit on the same plane. This is in principle what Wordsworth has stated in the second edition of the Brooke Ballads: The poet daringly treats profane love as if it were divine love. Such an approach would necessarily displace literature from its place in history and sever any ties it has with culture, society and religion, and also prevent morally biased readings. His textbook anthologies, Understanding Poetry and Understanding Fiction were the principal media by which the orthodoxies of the New Criticism were transmitted to a whole generation of American students of literature.

There is a sense in which paradox is the language appropriate and inevitable to poetry; Poetic truth can be approached only in terms of paradox. Remember me on this computer. Languagr the writing of kanguage, paradox is used as a method by which unlikely comparisons can be drawn and meaning can be extracted from poems both straightforward and enigmatic. In addition to the theme, the New Critics also looked for paradox, ambiguity, irony, and tension to help establish the single best and most unified interpretation of the text.

This makes the continual tilting of the planes an immediate necessity. In Brooks’s use of the paradox as a tool for analysis, however, he develops a logical case as a literary technique with strong emotional effect. Click here to sign up. It changes the tone of the poem from ironic banter to that of a defiant and controlled tenderness.


The dominant metaphor of the holy anchorite who by giving up this world achieves a better world is true here. The intense world is actively achieved and not received passively: In the writing of poems, paradox is used as a method by which unlikely comparisons can be drawn and meaning can be extracted from poems both straightforward and enigmatic. Cleanth Brooks and The Language of Paradox.

For one, Brooks believes that the very structure of poetry is paradox, and ignores the other subtleties of imagination and power that poets bring to their poems. The poet, then, is not limited to the denotations of words, but, instead, revel languag the possible connotations of words. This is exactly the way in which neo-classical poets used paradoxes; though it is true, here, to say that paradoxes insist on the irony, rather than the wonder.

If thou appear untouched by solemn thought, Thy nature is therefore not less divine: Coleridge in his classic labguage of its nature and power employs a series of paradoxes: The opening of the third stanza suggests that this vein of irony is to be maintained.

Paradox (literature)

According to literary theorist Leroy Searle, Brooks’ use of paradox emphasized the indeterminate lines between form and content. Cleanth Brooksan active member of the New Critical movement, outlines the use of reading poems through paradox as a method parzdox critical interpretation.

Their Roots, Range, and Resolution.

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