2024 : 5 : 24
Mohammad Ghaffary

Mohammad Ghaffary

Academic rank: Assistant Professor
ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4012-0093
Education: PhD.
ScopusId: 55573741900
Faculty: Literature and Languages
Address: Arak University


Poiesis, Mimesis, and Truth: A Deconstructive Reading of Robert Graves’s The Devil’s Advice to Story-Tellers
poiesis; mimesis; ars poetica; defamiliarization; “The Devil’s Advice to Story-Tellers”
Researchers Mohammad Ghaffary


From ancient Greek art theory to twentieth-century analytic philosophy of language, the concept of truth has always been a central question and has carried significant implications for understanding and teaching literature. The possibility of (re)presenting “truth” via verbal language in literary works is often linked with the value of literature as an art form, a theme observed in “The Devil’s Advice to Story-Tellers” (1938), a short but convoluted and intriguing lyrical poem by the English poet and critic Robert Graves (1895-1985) that directly addresses the binary opposition of fact / fiction in literary language. Adopting a Deconstructive reading strategy based on Jacques Derrida’s theory of language, structure, and signification, this qualitative library-based research examines Graves’s poem to shed light on the themes related to the nature of language and writing. To this aim, the genre of ars poetica (art of poetry), the classical notion of mimesis, and the Russian-Formalist idea of defamiliarization are elucidated while analyzing the thematic structure of the poem. The analysis concludes that this poem plays with such ideas as “truth” and “lie,” blurring the boundaries between them and dismantling the hierarchy of truth > lie. It is argued that the poem can be deemed as a poetic proto-Poststructuralist account of the paradoxical nature of language as it unties such intricate dualisms as form / content, fact / fiction, and poiesis / mimesis. Finally, it is demonstrated that, however, the poem’s speaker inadvertently contradicts his own claim that poetry should not be morally instructive as his language betrays him and ultimately his text turns out to be yet another didactic text which intends to teach “storytellers” how to write “good” stories. Thus, this study carries considerable implications for the relation between cognitive and aesthetic values of literature in particular and researching and teaching literary language in general.