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Literary Experience, Paraphrase, and the Idea of a Text
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Comparative Literature and Scandinavian Languages.
2007 (English)Conference paper (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In my paper, I will revisit the problem of paraphrase described by Cleanth Brooks in “The Heresy of Paraphrase” (1947). A poem by the Swedish author Tomas Tranströmer (b. 1931), “Fire-Jottings” (“Eldklotter”, 1983) will be used for exemplification. I intend to stress that literary texts are meant to be read and experienced. Properties of a kind usually called formal affect the reader’s experience significantly. In the course of my argument, I will give a concise analysis of the form of the Tranströmer poem and make some observations about possible effects of the formal qualities. A literary text can be conceived of as a potential source of literary experiences. Every change in the text, for instance its replacement with a paraphrase, will inevitably alter some of its properties and hence, potentially, its effects on a reader. Although paraphrases of literary texts can have legitimate uses there is, consequently, an important sense in which literary texts cannot be paraphrased. For obvious reasons, it is also impossible to equate a literary experience with a paraphrase of it. One may question whether it is justified to push literary experience into the foreground as resolutely as I do. Does not the impossibility of literary paraphrase have to do, rather, with the inexhaustibility of the literary text itself? I will meet objections in this vein by relativizing the very idea of a text, such as it is ordinarily conceived, as resting on a metaphoric basis, and by explaining why the question of paraphrase is best addressed without the help of that metaphor.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
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General Literature Studies
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-6579OAI: diva2:146248
"Metaphor, Poetry, Paraphrase", Centre for the Study of Mind in Nature, Oslo, November 2007.

Föredrag vid workshopen "Metaphor, Poetry, Paraphrase", Centre for the Study of Mind in Nature, Oslo, november 2007.

Available from: 2008-01-21 Created: 2008-01-21 Last updated: 2013-08-29Bibliographically approved

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Pettersson, Anders
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Comparative Literature and Scandinavian Languages
General Literature Studies

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