I have criticism mid-term tomorrow. We are taking New Criticism theory, presented in Cleanth Brook’s essay “The Language of Paradox”.
This is not my first criticism course, but this course seems different.
In his essay, Brooks offers his theory through variety of examples. He lists many poems by different poets belonging to different schools of poetry. What Brooks wants to reach is that all these poems support his theory.
Now, what is his theory?
Brooks theory basically states that the language of poetry is built on paradox. Poetry derives its power and unity from paradox.
For Brooks, paradox gives precession and uniformity to the poem.
He provide the example of the metaphysical poet John Donne’s “The Canonization” in which he points out that without paradox, the poem will end up being a presentation of scientific facts. Furthermore, paradox allows Donne to present his ideas in a more precise manner.
For those of you who have no idea what is paradox;
Paradox is a statement that contradicts itself.
” `I always lie’ is a paradox because if it is true it must be false”
Similarly, paradox in literature is
an anomalous juxtaposition of different ideas for the sake of striking description or unexpected insight.
Statements such as Wilde’s “I can resist anything except temptation” is an example of paradox in literature.
Right now I am trying to work out why is paradox such a big deal for Brooks? Why is it the modern critics main concern? 😐
I think that paradox was there from the birth of literature, but it was not acknowledged until later. Brooks, I believe, has revolutionized the paradox meaning and its importance for poetry. As Brooks says, poetry is complex, therefore a method is needed to present it, with its multifaceted themes revealed through its artistic structure. Paradox, as a result, made it easier for the poet to collect all his thoughts in a manner that is both enjoyable and instructive.