"Heresy of paraphrase": to believe that paraphrasing a fictional plot or a lyric poem's thoughts constitutes an interpretation, or to believe that interpreting such a paraphrase can constitute an interpretation of the text of the work, itself (also called "falling into plot summary" when you do it in your papers). New Criticism encountered a great deal of published "scholarship" from the late C19 and early C20 which was made up of little more than plot summary. This is dangerous because readers often sought to substitute reading commercial condensations of literary works for reading the real thing, as in the case of Readers' Digest Condensed Books. Sometimes, it is useful to the literary analyst to attempt to summarize a work's plot in her/his own words, but we must never forget those are our words, not the poets' words, and New Criticism insists that only the poets' words are admissible as evidence in close reading analysis except when generalizing about larger patterns in the evidence. The phrase, "heresy of paraphrase," comes from an appendix to Cleanth Brooks' influential The Well-Wrought Urn: Studies in the Structure of Poetry (N.Y.: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1947). The book's title comes from the fourth and penultimate stanza of John Donne's "The Canonization":
We can die by it, if not live by love,
And if unfit for tombs and hearse
Our legend be, it will be fit for verse;
And if no piece of chronicle we prove,
We’ll build in sonnets pretty rooms;
As well a well-wrought urn becomes
The greatest ashes, as half-acre tombs,
And by these hymns, all shall approve
Us canonized for love.
Someone committing the heresy of paraphrase might try to tell you, as interpretation of that stanza, that Donne and his beloved will be memorialized in poems and later readers will praise them both as literary saints. As a New Critic, you would say, "But John Donne already told us that and much more eloquently, too--what is the significance of how he told us?" A legal New Critical interpretation would draw attention to the form, pointing out that Donne's speaker (not necessarily Donne the man!) uses the conventional metaphor of "dying for love" to mock those other poets and lovers who are content only to die for the emotion, and to claim that he and his beloved will live to triumph over those merely prosaic lovers. Donne's speaker's love is described as "Our legend"--saints' lives were called "legends"; whereas the poem implies they will be thought "unfit" in a good way for the place ordinary lovers' records will be recorded, a "piece of chronicle"--medieval prose records of daily events like floods, fires, and battles. The mere lovers will have mere material tombs, whereas Donne's poem promises his reader, and creates as he does so, "pretty rooms" built in "sonnets." Note that the O.E.D. definition 2, still in use when Donne was writing, could treat "Canonization" as a "sonnet" even though it was not fourteen lines of iambic pentameter (the restrictive definition now commonly assumed): "2. A short poem or piece of verse; in early use esp. one of a lyrical and amatory character. Now rare or Obs." New Critics loved poems that did in form what they talked about in content, and they would have taken Donne's poem's survival as proof of the deep truth of its own claim. Does love live in words? That's for the next essay. The NCs probably would say that is the only place love can live on after the lovers' death. Believing in poets' more grand claims about their art is one of NC's little vices.