The text on this page is from David Lavery, "An Owen Barfield Readers Guide." Seven 15 (1998): 97-112.

The Rediscovery of Meaning

The Rediscovery of Meaning and Other Essays. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan U P, 1977.

We live in a camera civilization. Our entertainment is camera entertainment. Our holidays are camera holidays. We make them so by paying more attention to the camera we brought with us than to the waterfall we are pointing it at. Our science is almost entirely a camera science. . . . and it is already becoming self-evident to camera man that only camera words have any meaning. (The Rediscovery of Meaning 76)

Like Romanticism Comes of Age, The Rediscovery of Meaning assembles occasional writings (mostly from the ‘60s and ‘70s), including some of his most brilliant, and most readable, pieces: the title essay for example, originally commissioned by and published in The Saturday Evening Post, "The Harp and the Camera," "Dreams, Myth, and Philosophical Double Vision" (written for a collection of essays edited by Joseph Campbell), and "Philology and the Incarnation," Barfield’s Religio Philologi--his explanation of how his philological investigations led him to finally accept the evolutionary truth of Christianity. Almost every essay in The Rediscovery of Meaning merits not only reading but rereading. No comprehensive understanding of Barfield’s thought is possible without it. It is characteristic of Barfield’s modesty that he prefaces The Rediscovery of Meaning with the cautionary warning quoted in the first epigraph at the head of this essay, but though the reader will no doubt find in its pages the same old Barfield mind at work on many of the same subjects, he or she will likely conclude (with Lewis) that here as elsewhere the author was unable to speak on any subject without illuminating it.

Table of Contents

Introduction 3-10

The Rediscovery of Meaning 11-21
Dream, Myth, and Philosophical Double Vision 22-31
The Meaning of Literal 32-43
Poetic Diction and Legal Fiction 44-64
The Harp and the Camera 65-78
Where Is Fancy Bred? 79-92
The Rediscovery of Allegory (I) 93-100
The Rediscovery of Allegory (II) 101-111
Imagination and Inspiration 111-129
Language and Discovery 130-140

Matter, Imagination, and Spirit 143-154
Self and Reality 155-175
Science and Quality 176-186
The Coming Trauma of Materialism 187-200
Participation and Isolation: A Fresh Light on Present Discontents 201-216
 Philology and the Incarnation 228-236
The Psalms of David 237-248
The 'Son of God' and the 'Son of Man' 249-260