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Understanding Poetry (1938)

– tekijä: Cleanth Brooks, Robert Penn Warren

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioMaininnat
318161,229 (4.21)10
The fourth edition of UNDERSTANDING POETRY is a re-inspection of poetry. Keeping it teachable and flexible, the material allows for full and innocent immersion as well as raising inductive questions to develop critical and analytical skills. Students will be led to understand poetry as a means of imaginatively extending their own experience and indeed, probing the possibilities of the self. This latest incarnation of the landmark text facilitates a thorough study of poetry.… (lisätietoja)
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I grew up as a student of literature, then as a teacher, at the height of the influence of New Criticism. My new testament—and I mean that word quite literally—consisted of works like Cleanth Brooks’ The Well-Wrought Urn, Laurence Perrine’s Sound and Sense, John Ciardi’s How Does a Poem Mean, and Brooks’ and Warren’s trilogy, Understanding Poetry, Understanding Fiction, and Understanding Drama (with Robert B. Heilman). My undergraduate advisor was a John Donne scholar; his dissertation was to have been on the relationship between Donne and the development of modern criticism (I’m not sure he ever finished it before he entered his father-in-law’s business and became a prominent Republican politician; we lost touch.) When, in his course on the metaphysical poets, he assigned me to do an explication of Donne’s “The Canonization,” I’m sure he chose deliberately to expose me to Brooks’ reading of the poem in The Well-Wrought Urn. Because most of my undergraduate major had been focused on an historical approach to literature, he recommended that I purchase and read on my own Understanding Poetry (rev ed, Henry Holt, 1950). So I did. I can recapture my initiation into close reading and my excitement in the process by perusing the tiny, neat marginal notes and the underlined passages in my copy.

Frankly, I backed into being an English major, and I think I was able to accept this role only because the New Critics had rejected, vociferously, the vague impressionistic criticism prevalent then and the isolated emphasis on technical aspects of literature. “A poem should always be treated as an organic system of relationships,” Brooks and Warren insisted (p. xv), and “pure impressionism can be eliminated from the debate” (p. xix). Understanding Poetry, then, is a handbook in close textual analysis. Its authors clearly urged readers to avoid what William Wimsatt and colleagues had called “the affective fallacy.” It is not how a poem makes one feel, or even what a poem means, that they are interested in: “the poem is not a vehicle for its idea, but is [italicized for emphasis] its idea, its meaning.” Or, as Ciardi would put it later, it’s not what the poem means, but how the poem means.

How curious then that, all these years later, I find an implicit statement of the basis of reader-response criticism to which I eventually turned my attention and professional loyalty. It comes after one of my underlined passages and apparently went unnoticed by me at the time: “The good reader of poetry knows that there are no ‘official’ readings. he knows that there is only a continuing and ever-renewing transaction between him and the poem, a perpetual dialectic.” Exploring that “transaction,” that “dialectic,” became my principal focus in teaching and in writing. Close textual analysis of the poem, of course. But also close attention to how the reader is processing the text, and why.

At the time I gave my attention fully to the textual complexity of the poem, to the elements that distinguished a poem from its prose equivalent: “the greater selectivity in use of detail, the emphasis on suggestiveness [or obliqueness, rather than direct statement], and the importance of placing details in relation to the central intention of the poem [not of the poet but of the poem]” as well as “the high degree of organization in poetry,” particularly “the use of rhythmical language.” Poetry is not necessarily verse, but verse “is best discussed in relation to the meaning of the poem as a whole.” Understatement is one manifestation of the subtlety of poetic language: “the theme does not give the poem its force; the poem gives the theme its force”; “suggestiveness plays an important part”; “the poem does not state all that it has to say”; “action proper is suppressed, or only hinted at.”

Yes, Brooks and Warren taught a whole generation of us how to read, especially how to read a poem. They taught us to look carefully at all the elements of the poem (its narrative and descriptive surface, its metrics, its tone, its imagery, its theme, its “ambiguity, added dimension, and submerged metaphor”), but even more important, they taught us to judge a poem by the extent to which all these elements are bound together in a primal unity. “Such arguments . . . do not tend to diminish the power of the sound (the inherent rhythm) when it works in conjunction with sense and feeling [this clause italicized for emphasis]. In fact the close co-operation of the form with the meaning—modifying it and being modified by it in ways that though subtle are, in general, perfectly intelligible—is the chief secret of Style in poetry.”

By the time of this revised edition of Understanding Poetry, the New Critics had come in for reproach for their “reading between the lines.” They respond, and in responding they offer what they consider more palatable terms for ambiguity and indirection, but their defense of ambiguity and indirection as qualities of serious poetry is still manifest.

“Because, therefore, of our deep-settled language habits, praise of a poet for his use of ‘ambiguous associations,’ and emphasis upon indirection as a characteristic of poetry, can easily suggest that the poet is trying to be difficult or obscure. It can even suggest that reading poetry is primarily an exercise in detecting the hidden references and unraveling the problems that the poet has cunningly set for us. Nothing, of course, could be more absurd. . . . ¶ Poetry, as we have said, does not lead directly [italics] to its subject: it encompasses its subject. When seems to be indirection [italics] when measured against the standard of two-dimensional expository prose, is really massiveness and density. By the same token, ‘ambiguity’ is seen to be depth and richness.”

Massiveness. Density. Depth and richness. These became our expectations, the hallmarks of good poetry, for the next fifty years. Obliqueness. Difficulty. Obscurity. Those became the common reader’s response, the basis for widespread suspicion and downright distaste for serious poetry. Poets-in-residence and professors in creative-writing programs in colleges and universities were judged on precisely these criteria: density, subtlety, complexity. Literary critics in departments of English were required if students were to learn to interpret, analyze, “read” such difficult, obscure poems. A whole profession defined itself.

But recently there has developed on the side, in the streets, outside the academy, in poetry jams, another loyal community of poets and readers of poetry. Poet Laureate Billy Collins gave it a term: accessibility. Could it be? Is the New Criticism about to give way to the New Age? Can there possibly be good poetry that is not subtle, indirect, ambiguous, or obscure?

We shall see, we shall see.

In the meantime, for a whole generation the term “Brooks and Warren” has been synonymous with “understanding poetry.” Even post-modernists, deconstructionists, and reader-response critics, those of us who have emphasized “transaction” and “dialectic—all of us have taken our stand upon “close textual analysis,” or as one textbook rephrased our approach, “close imagining” of the text.
3 ääni bfrank | Jul 31, 2007 |
ei arvosteluja | lisää arvostelu

» Lisää muita tekijöitä (2 mahdollista)

Tekijän nimiRooliTekijän tyyppiKoskeeko teosta?Tila
Brooks, Cleanthensisijainen tekijäkaikki painoksetvahvistettu
Warren, Robert Pennpäätekijäkaikki painoksetvahvistettu
Sinun täytyy kirjautua sisään voidaksesi muokata Yhteistä tietoa
Katso lisäohjeita Common Knowledge -sivuilta (englanniksi).
Kanoninen teoksen nimi
Alkuteoksen nimi
Teoksen muut nimet
Alkuperäinen julkaisuvuosi
Henkilöt/hahmot
Tärkeät paikat
Tärkeät tapahtumat
Kirjaan liittyvät elokuvat
Palkinnot ja kunnianosoitukset
Epigrafi (motto tai mietelause kirjan alussa)
Omistuskirjoitus
Tiedot englanninkielisestä Yhteisestä tiedosta. Muokkaa kotoistaaksesi se omalle kielellesi.
To William A. Read
Ensimmäiset sanat
Tiedot englanninkielisestä Yhteisestä tiedosta. Muokkaa kotoistaaksesi se omalle kielellesi.
This book has been conceived on the assumption that if poetry is worth teaching at all it is worth teaching as poetry.
Sitaatit
Viimeiset sanat
Tiedot englanninkielisestä Yhteisestä tiedosta. Muokkaa kotoistaaksesi se omalle kielellesi.
(Napsauta nähdäksesi. Varoitus: voi sisältää juonipaljastuksia)
Erotteluhuomautus
Julkaisutoimittajat
Kirjan kehujat
Alkuteoksen kieli
Canonical DDC/MDS

Viittaukset tähän teokseen muissa lähteissä.

Englanninkielinen Wikipedia (1)

The fourth edition of UNDERSTANDING POETRY is a re-inspection of poetry. Keeping it teachable and flexible, the material allows for full and innocent immersion as well as raising inductive questions to develop critical and analytical skills. Students will be led to understand poetry as a means of imaginatively extending their own experience and indeed, probing the possibilities of the self. This latest incarnation of the landmark text facilitates a thorough study of poetry.

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