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Language of Paradox

In poetry, paradox is a key to express tension and thus become a central device to convey its meaning. As the word paradox of its Greek origin literally means beyond-belief, an element of paradox in poetry functions to give focus on the meaning of a word or a situation beyond what it first appears to be. This characteristic serves to create a new meaning in place of conventional set of words. It further serves to give value to a poem as a whole. There are examples of paradox shown in situation and in language. The paradox in situation is such as shown in Cleanth Brooks in his article Language of Paradox from The Well Wrought Urn (1947). He points out an example of Wordsworths Composed upon Westminster Bridge, which captures the paradox between a mechanical, cultivated city of London and the way it seems organic and alive before the eyes of the beholder/speaker. The paradox in language is more specific, such as when a poet combines more than two words to create the meaning beyond, if not opposite from the norm. (e.g. Oxymoron, Metaphor) These two types of paradox form the essence of a poetry, in which form is meaning. However, William J. Rooney criticizes the ways Brooks connects this poetic paradox to the statement that a poem is making. He argues in an article The Canonization- The Language of Paradox Reconsidered (1956) that Brooks fails to read a poem purely for its aesthetic unity, but with a regard to the readers emotional response to the poem. He writes that the function of Canonization is primarily non-instrumental. No matter what its meaning is, its end is obviously that it be read with delight and for delightThe paradox functions, however, primarily for the sake of the total verbal structure of which it is a part and which has its own end in being a poem- a beautiful speech. Thus Rooney argues against the possibility of paradox as a means to represent the whole of the poem. Brooks, in his lecture The Poetry of Tension (1971) supports I. A. Richards' view on the centrality of paradox in creating a richer, deeper, and more tough-minded poetry as it gives room to a wider context of experience (1929). This poetry of paradox is also called the poetry of inclusion. Because the two opposites are present and included in a poem, this embodies the centrality of paradox (literary device) in representing the poem. (its value or the meaning.) Brooks also puts up an elaborate picture of the inseparable relationship between a paradoxical element and a value of a poem in Literary Criticism: A Short History (1965). In an article entitled I. A. Richards: A Poetics of Tension, he describes paradox of poetry as that which is a lively reminder of the aspects of reality with which logic cannot cope. This inability to cope, he states, is the very characteristic of what gives poetry its value. He further writes that: The arguments of most poems are usually dull affairs; we follow the pathway of the argument really for the sake of the details that border the path. We are tempted to pick a daisy or to investigate an oddly shaped bush. We keep returning to the path and eventually arrive at our elected destination, but we arrive having seen the country-as we would not have had we kept to the straight and narrow path of science. The incidental

details give the journey its value. Brooks also draws examples of paradox giving poetry its value from T. S. Eliots The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (1917), Thomas Grays Elegy (1751) and more. (Understanding Poetry: An Anthology For College Students (1938).) Cleanth Brooks (October 16, 1906 - May 10, 1994) was an influential American literary critic and professor. He is best known for his contributions to New Criticism in the midtwentieth century and for revolutionizing the teaching of poetry in American higher education. His best-known works, The Well Wrought Urn: Studies in the Structure of Poetry (1947) and Modern Poetry and the Tradition (1939), argue for the centrality of ambiguity and paradox as a way of understanding poetry. With his writing, Brooks helped to formulate formalist criticism, emphasizing the interior life of a poem (Leitch 2001) and codifying the principles of close reading. Brooks was also the preeminent critic on Southern literature, writing classic texts on William Faulkner, and co-editor of the influential journal, The Southern Review (Leitch 2001).