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Poetic Diction: A Study in Meaning
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Poetic Diction: A Study in Meaning

4.28 of 5 stars 4.28  ·  rating details  ·  137 ratings  ·  23 reviews
Poetic Diction, first published in 1928, begins by asking why we call a given grouping of words "poetry" and why these arouse "aesthetic imagination" and produce pleasure in a receptive reader. Returning always to this personal experience of poetry, Owen Barfield at the same time seeks objective standards of criticism and a theory of poetic diction in broader philosophical ...more
Paperback, 238 pages
Published December 1st 1984 by Wesleyan (first published 1928)
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Dave Maddock
This is a difficult book to review. Its arguments are complex, broad in scope and application, and ironically reductive. On the face of it, it is a meditation on a line from Emerson--"Language is fossil poetry" (from "The Poet")--that is taken so far to the extreme that it breaks.

Most of what I have to say is criticism of Barfield which might give the impression that I hated the book. In fact, I quite liked it. The ideas have great appeal. The real shame is that he overreaches so far that I can
John Pillar
This was definitely new territory for me. I came away from reading it with a greater appreciation for the role of the poet in expanding language and meaning. I'll leave it to other reviewers who may be better versed in literature and philosophy to comment on the technical details of the book.

One thing I found interesting was that while extolling the virtue of the poetic, Barfield did not denigrate the need for the prosaic.
Assigned for Dr. Ralph Wood's Oxford Christians course at Baylor (2014). Some really great things in here, but not an accessible book. Here's Barfield's assessment of the book, 46 years after its publication: "If the book does anything, it erects a structure of thought on the basis of a felt difference between what it calls 'the Prosaic' and 'the Poetic'. Corollary thereto is a further distinction drawn between two kinds of poetry, or of the Poetic itself, and further the conception that that di ...more
A few days ago I finished reading Owen Barfield’s POETIC DICTION (1928). He was a friend of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. Not as well known as they, Barfield wrote mainly criticism and philosophical speculations. POETIC DICTION has been consistently reprinted and remains influential. Agreeing with Emerson’s “Nature,” Barfield argues that all language is in essence metaphorical, even scientific prose. He locates the poetic in the metaphorical use of language to create new perceptions of reali ...more
Nov 15, 2007 Carl rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of the inklings and those interested in philosophy of language
Don't have this fresh in my mind as it's been a while since I read this, but I think Barfield's work is interesting not only as a key to the thought of the Inklings, but as a philosophical/literary perspective parallel to but a bit off from mainstream 20th century thought. I feel like there are a lot of resonances with hermeneutic phenomenology, and hope to explore that further. For example, Barfield's ideas about metaphor seem to me very similar to Dreyfus' account of Heidegger's own work:
"On t
Tommy Grooms
A difficult book, written for those of a classical education that as a practical matter doesn't exist anymore. It made me wish I had the means (or, more honestly, the patience) to learn and appreciate languages that function differently than my own. I found it necessary to stop midway through and read from the beginning in order to grasp the key concepts, and I hope I'll be forgiven for not tackling the appendices.

That difficulty is the only thing keeping this from a five-star review. Otherwise
Ben Mcfarland
I have pretty positive reactions to most books. A few I even think, when I put them down, that maybe someday I'll read them again. But very rarely have I ever felt like reading a book again as soon as I put it down. Poetic Diction is that book. I found this book by researching J.R.R. Tolkien, who was influenced by Owen Barfield's ideas, especially this book. Then I kept seeing Barfield's name and I found out that lots of people were deeply influenced by his thinking (and not just his close frien ...more
Michael Fitzpatrick
Owen Barfield has truly written a philosophical and literary masterpiece. "Poetic Diction" begins with a phenomenological analysis of poetry, and why it affects us the way it does. But it quickly expands into an exploration of how we know things, and the shape of reality as a whole. Barfield critiques the works of Locke, Kant and Hume, and provides a basis for understanding meaning as a description of our relationship with reality. Poetry becomes a description of this experience, about how our p ...more
According to Barfield, language has preserved the inner history of human beings and reveals the evolution of consciousness. Embedded in our subconscious is the memory of when language was more of an archetype symbolic expression, which is why poetry excites the aesthetic imagination and has the potential of producing a felt change in consciousness.

Barfield also attempts to heal the subject / object split that has occurred through the evolution of consciousness by providing a participatory epist
This is my second time to read this. I enjoyed it a lot more my second time through. I'm reading it because I have reread The Lord of the Rings 14 times, The Hobbit 8 times, The silmarillion 6 to 8 times, and all of the volumes of The History of Middle-earth, and other things by Tolkien between 1 and 3 times. I have read literary criticisms of Tolkien's work. So, I'm reading the other Inklings. I read a fair amount of C.S. Lewis. I don't really like Charles Williams. I am enjoying Own Barfield. ...more
Philip Morgan
I think this book kind of fucked me up in the head. In trying to trace back to when I stopped believing and acting as if words mean the same thing to everybody, I think I find the headwaters of that belief in Barfield's writings and this book in particular. Or maybe I'm just a Gen-Xer with a heightened awareness of the role of stories and filters and worldviews.

In any event, Barfield lays out an sequence of interesting examples of how words have danced with meaning, and how that dance has change
Adam Ross
This was an interesting, though highly dry book. It loses you occasionally, because Barfield is carrying on philological debates with men nobody's heard of today, but in his time were apparently influential. He argues that all language is inherently poetic, and that poetry and metaphor are the centers of language. The more "poetic" is our education, the more we are changed and transformed for the better.
Justin Bailey
Why is it that poetic language somehow feels truer and more meaningful than literal descriptions? Using etymology, Barfield argues that language holds within it a "history of consciousness" and that poetic language moves us by affecting in us a "felt change of consciousness", allowing us to participate more fully in the Meaning with which the world is dripping.

A brilliant book.
Sean Murray
One-trick pony. Could be a pamphlet and lose nothing
It will probably take the rest of my life to understand this book, not because Barfield doesn't write clearly or logically but because his intellect is so giant. Extremely thought-provoking book about language and how we make meaning.
James Prothero
Brilliant, though I found it wound through realms of language theory that I was unfamiliar with. The central concept rings true. Language IS fossilized metaphor.
This book is a narrow shaft providing a glimpse into a world that went underground: metaphor and poetry as a key to a human construction of meaning in the universe.
Jim Owen
Very pleased with this text. I have read it and I am now outlining it. He is no C. S. Lewis, but with a little rereading, he is clear and his discussion is valuable.
A true study of meaning!
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