By Idun Reiten, Sverre O. Smalø, Øyvind Solberg

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Now the subject . . is not, as such, inside the poem, but outside it. The contents of the stanza To a Skylark are not the ideas suggested by the word ‘skylark’ to the average man; they belong to Shelley just as much as the language does. The subject, therefore, is not the matter of the poem at all; and its opposite is not the form of the poem, but the whole poem. 16 The subject, then, for Bradley, is broadly speaking what a poem is about; it includes well-known stories, the Fall of Man, say, or the tragedy of Agamemnon and the House of Atreus, of which there might be many versions, but it might also include particulars, King Arthur or Queen Victoria, or general concepts, like skylark or 15 16 Bradley, ‘Poetry’, p.

Of course readers of poetry do have an interest in meaning but it is usually at the textual level of explication; they ask what this word or phrase means, how it connects with other meaningful units. Even unpacking allusions or references is a somewhat extended sense of ‘meaning’. But interpretation in the context of poetry is not centrally involved with meaning, so much as with recovering broader kinds of achievement. Kivy is right to reject the idea that paraphrase aims at reproducing ‘the poem’s total effect on the reader’ but it would be wrong to infer from this that the effect on a suitably qualified reader – that reader’s experience – is not essentially connected with interpretation.

His worry is that the standard of success will either be set so high that it couldn’t reasonably be attained or, worse, that successful paraphrase is made impossible in effect by stipulation. 9 One way he thinks the bar is set unreasonably high, or perhaps is the wrong kind of bar altogether, is an appeal to the experience of the poem. If the criterion for successful paraphrase is the ‘reproduction of the poem’s total effect on the reader’ then of course, he agrees, paraphrase will not be possible: this criterion of success [’reproduction of the poem’s total effect on the reader’] .

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Algebras and Modules One by Idun Reiten, Sverre O. Smalø, Øyvind Solberg
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