Poetry and the possibility of paraphrase

Gregory Paul Currie, Jacopo Frascaroli

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Why is there a long-standing debate about paraphrase in poetry? Everyone agrees that paraphrase can be useful; everyone agrees that paraphrase is no substitute for the poem itself. What is there to disagree about? Perhaps this: whether paraphrase can specify everything that counts as a contribution to the meaning of a poem. There are, we say, two ways to take the question; on one way of taking it, the answer is that paraphrase cannot. Does this entail that there is meaning mysteriously locked in a poem, meaning that cannot be represented in any way other than via the poem itself? If that were so it would have profound implications for poetry’s capacity to convey insight. Our primary purpose is to argue that the entailment does not hold. Throughout, we connect the traditional debate over paraphrase, which has largely been conducted within the fields of philosophy and literary theory, with recent empirically oriented thinking about the communicability of meaning.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberkpab040
Pages (from-to)428–439
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of aesthetics and art criticism
Early online date11 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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© The Author(s) 2021

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