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Main page » Non-Fiction » Poetic Diction: A Study in Meaning

Poetic Diction: A Study in Meaning


One of the reviewers here called Barfield 'a product of his time' and suggested that now he's useful only for practical use, not for contemporary scientists and theorists. I have to disagree, and that's why I'm writing this review.
1) Barfield's views on co-evolution of language and consciousness may not be widely accepted today, but surely they're not 'outdated'. His is simply an alternative theory of language history, and 'alternative' doesn't mean 'wrong'. It isn't 'naive' either: he only notes some rules at work in different languages (such as the tendency to greater abstraction), and applies them to poetry. Nowhere does he regard the metahistory of language as linear, and nowhere does he speak of 'primitive' times, or of evolution towards greater complexity in language, etc.
2) Barfield's theory of metaphor is very stimulating and not at all discredited today. Maybe the former reviewer read too much Donald Davidson who regards Barfield's theory invalid, but for example Paul Ricoeur often cites Barfield approvingly. So it's all a matter of scientific paradigm one works in.
I could go on forever, but it'd be better if you didn't trust anyone and simply read some Barfield. Don't read him with 'a priori' knowledge of his being outdated - simply read and evaluate his every argument for yourself to see if it's valid. Theories come and go, but thoughtful books remain.

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Tags: Barfield, theorists, scientists, practical, disagree, Poetic, Meaning, Barfield, Diction, Study