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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Skip to main content. Log In Sign Up. Cleanth Brooks and The Language of Paradox.

The reasons why it rose to almost hegemonic proportions are complex and many. The most significant of these reasons trace an languagd of the movement. Second, the high point of influence for the movement was during the Second World War and the Cold War. Studying a passage ,anguage prose or poetry in New Critical style required careful, exacting scrutiny of the passage itself.

Formal elements such as rhyme, meter, setting, languge, and plot were used to identify the theme of the text. 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 paradoox text. 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.

In short, it would make literature an isolated phenomenon. He held many academic positions and received many distinguished fellowships and broiks doctorates. His textbook anthologies, Understanding Poetry and Understanding Fiction were the principal media by which the orthodoxies brokos the New Criticism were transmitted to a whole generation of American students of literature.

Studies in the Structure of Poetry In “The Formalist Critics,” Brooks offers “some articles of faith” to which he subscribes. These articles exemplify the tenets of New Criticism: His views invited a fair share of criticism. In particular, the New Critical techniques were found to be very effective with such forms as lyric poetry but not with genres like the novel, which are heavily invested in cultural, social, historical and moral readings.

Brooks and the New Critics also argued that there was in existence a finite number of good texts a canon.

However fleanth values celebrated by the New Critics were neither universal nor unchanging, but reflective of their own very specific concerns and ambitions. Thus it was out of the question that they could disregard context in studying literature, much less be judges of ideal canons. All the generalizations are made out of a close analysis of lyric poetry. It is considered intellectual than emotional and rational than irrational. This makes it a permissible feature of an epigram or a satire, sub- varieties of poetry, but not of poetry itself.

This is merely a matter of prejudice. There is a sense in which paradox is the language appropriate and inevitable cleahth poetry; Poetic truth can be approached only in terms of paradox.

William Wordsworth is a poet who distrusts sophistry and relies greatly on simplicity. His poems would not provide too many examples of paradoxes.

Paradox (literature) – Wikipedia

Yet, a typical Wordsworth poem is based upon a paradoxical situation. His famous It is a Beauteous Evening: It is a beauteous evening, calm and free The holy time is quiet as a Nun Breathless with adoration…. The poet is filled with worship, but the girl paraadox walks with him is not.


Yet the poet goes on to say: If thou appear untouched by solemn thought, Thy nature is therefore not less lanuage The underlying paradox brokks striking; the innocent girl, with her unconscious sympathy for all of nature, worships more deeply than the self conscious poet whose devotion is momentary and sporadic.

The paradox runs deeper than this cleant. It suggests not a mere holiness but a pharisaical holiness, a foil to the symbol of her continual secret worship. In expressing his awed surprise that the city should be able to wear the beauty of the morning langage all, the poem creates points of almost shocked expression: Never did the sun more beautifully steep In his splendor, valley, rock or hill… The poem closes: The very houses seem asleep And all that coeanth heart is lying still!

This is in principle what Wordsworth has stated in the second edition of the Lyrical Ballads: In short, Wordsworth inverted set ideals about the language of poetry and showed his audience that common was really uncommon and the prosaic was really poetic. 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.

In poets like Blake and Coleridge, they merge with variations in emphasis. The poet has to make up his language as he goes.

It is a perpetual part of the craft of poetry and cannot be kept out, but can only be directed and controlled. The poet must work by contradiction and qualification. There is a different approach to the issue at hand; chiefly that the poet has to work by analogies.

All subtler states of emotion demands metaphors for their expression.

Paradox (literature)

It is however, not possible that the metaphors will fit on the same plane. This makes the continual tilting of the planes an immediate necessity. Even the most direct and simple poet has to resort to discrepancies, contradictions and languagd. The poet is not defeated by this task nor is the poem reduced to shallow sophistry. There are of course, perils to consciously employing paradoxes but the dangers are pararox overpowering.

The method is only an extension of cleanh normal language of poetry, not a pervasion of it. The poet daringly treats profane love as if it were divine love. It is an intense and serious parody of a normally sacred ritual. Donne takes neither love nor sainthood seriously, but merely exercises his wit with a cynical and bawdy lyric.

The poem opens dramatically. It is clear that this person considers love as a silly affectation. He clenth the secular world the lovers have renounced. The metaphor suggested in the first lines of the poem makes several clear implications: But he may as well chide the speaker for his Palsy or his gout or his old or ruined fortune as he stands a better chance of curing those.

He neatly and contemptuously epitomizes the two main categories of secular success in the line: But he is to let the speaker alone. In fact, it dominates the second stanza in which the torments of love which are so very vivid to the lover have no effect on the real world at all: This is resolved only when the unworldly lovers having given up the world, paradoxically achieve a more intense world.


The dominant metaphor of the holy anchorite who by giving up this world achieves a better world is true here. The importance of the role of the second and third stanzas of the poem is that the poet changes the tone of the poem in them.

The tone of irritation that is seen at the opening of the poem becomes something very different. The implication is that the poet himself recognizes the absurdity of these love metaphors. The practical friend will still have wars to fight and lawsuits to argue. The opening of the third stanza suggests that this vein of irony is to be maintained.

The poet points out to his friend the infinite fund of such absurdities which can be applied to lovers: The comparisons in this poem take off from the well-worn Petrarchan conventionalities and are entirely different. The likening of the lovers to the phoenix is fully serious. It changes the tone of the poem from ironic banter to that of a defiant and controlled tenderness.

This revivifies the metaphor and makes clear the sense in which the poet accepts it. The fine metaphors of the fourth stanza achieve an effect of deliberate resolution and tenderness. The opening line of the stanza is very important in this sense: In the last stanza, the phoenix metaphor is completely realized; the lovers will win a more intense world by rejecting this one.

Cleanth Brooks’ Concept of Language of Paradox

Here the metaphor is powerfully dramatized. The intense world languahe actively achieved and not received passively: The unworldly lovers are thus the worldliest of all.

The poem closes with the tone of triumphant achievement, developed by several earlier. The figure of the phoenix is very significant in understanding the final paradox.

Paradoxy and Meaning in Bei Dao’s Poetry | positions: asia critique | Duke University Press

The image gathers up two early comparisons — that of the tapers and of the eagle and the dove. The phoenix comes in a natural stream of association. It really describes the lovers best and justifies their renunciation of the world. It also burns at its own cost, only to live cleantth. Its death is life. The lovers remain the same and the love is not merely lust. He argues that because their love is not mundane, the lovers can afford to reject the world.

Any other direct method would have enfeebled and distorted what was said. His lovers, bereft of the benefits languaye the supernatural that Donne confers on cleanrh, become less powerful, less unworldly. One type of union becomes a metaphor for the other. It is easy see both as instances of the union born out of creative imagination. Coleridge in his classic description of its nature and power employs a series of paradoxes: Reveals itself in the balance or reconcilement of opposite or discordant qualities: