Guidelines for Analysing Literary Texts-Analysing Poetry Lecture Notes-Literature, Study notes for Literary Analysis. Texas A&M University (TX)
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Guidelines for Analysing Literary Texts-Analysing Poetry Lecture Notes-Literature, Study notes for Literary Analysis. Texas A&M University (TX)

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Guidelines for Analysing Literary Texts-Analysing Poetry Lecture Notes-Literature-Christoph Reinfandt ANALYSING POETRY, Poetry, traditional position, Romantic position, Modernist position, The Poetic Principle, lyric poe...
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PR O F. DR. CH. RE I N F A N D T NEUER E EN G L IS C H E LITER AT UR

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GUIDELINES FOR ANALYSING POETRY

1) General Remarks: In functional terms poetry can be viewed as a literary medium for recording, forming, controlling and communicating human experience. As the "nature" of human experience is always dependent on historical and socio-cultural circumstances, the analysis of poetry will have to take these into account. From today's vantage point a history of poetry can be constructed in terms of three basic orientations: 1) The traditional position: poetry should strive to capture the "objective" meaning of

experience, i.e. a general truth (cf. Alexander Pope: "What oft was thought, but ne'er so well expressed", An Essay on Criticism, 1709/13, l. 298).

2) The Romantic position: poetry as individual subjective expression (cf. William Wordsworth: "... poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity", Preface to Lyrical Ballads, 1800).

3) The Modernist position: the poem as a linguistically self-referential (and self-sufficient) entity creating its own "objectivity" (cf. Edgar Allan Poe: "... there neither exists nor can exist any work more thoroughly dignified - more supremely noble than this very poem - this poem per se - this poem which is a poem and nothing more - this poem written solely for the poem's sake", The Poetic Principle, 1848/49).

In modern literature at large (i.e. since the 18th century) these three basic orientations form a continuum of "objective", subjective and reflexive dimensions of meaning, and every poem can be interpreted with regard to possibilities of ranking these dimensions. 2) Starting Points: - lyric poetry vs. narrative poetry > experience, impressions, ideas > (fictional) world, plot ⇒ subjective form, but literary conventions mediate the author's subjectivity ⇒ speaker/voice/(poetic) persona/lyrical I > (implicit or explicit) addressee → (implicit or explicit) dramatic or communicative situation ⇒ model function of stylized experience ⇓ ⇓ ⇒ two levels of analysis: composition utterance

PR O F. DR. CH. RE I N F A N D T NEUER E EN G L IS C H E LITER AT UR

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SITUATION speaker > [addressee]

utterance

STRUCTURE

composition [implied author > implied reader]

LITERARY CONVENTIONS TEXT

[AUTHOR] [READER] 3) Analysing Poetry 1) reading the text: a) subject matter b) semantic structure/development > parts and their relation (contrast, repetition, illustration etc.) > patterns of meaning (oppositions, world fields etc.) c) "reference" (general or specific: time/place, names etc.) 2) utterance: a) dramatic/communicative situation b) speaker/voice (implicit vs. explicit subjectivity) c) mode, mood, tone (narrative, descriptive, reflective, contemplative, celebratory etc.) d) [addressee] (implicit vs. explicit) 3) composition: a) striking graphic features (indented/isolated lines, typography, visual effects etc.) b) type of poem (ballad, dramatic monologue, elegy, epithalamion, folk song, haiku, hymn, ode, sonnet vs. individual forms) c) stanza (couplet, triplet, 'terza rima', quatrain, ballad stanza, 'rime royal', Spenserian stanza, 'ottava rima' etc.) d) rhyme (end rhyme: continuous, alternate, enclosing; pure vs. impure) e) meter (iambic: u/; trochaic: /u; anapestic: uu/; dactylic: /uu; cadence: masculine / vs. feminine /u) anacrusis/upbeat number of stressed syllables per line (regular forms vs. free verse) (e.g. blank verse = iambic pentameter, unrhymed heroic couplet = iambic pentameter, rhyming in pairs)

PR O F. DR. CH. RE I N F A N D T NEUER E EN G L IS C H E LITER AT UR

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f) lines/sentences (enjambement, run-on lines vs. end-stopped lines; caesura) g) rhetoric/formal devices - phonological: internal rhyme, alliteration, assonance, onomatopoeia - syntactic: anaphora, epiphora antithesis, oxymoron ellipsis, chiasmus, inversion, parallelism, repetition - semantic: archaism, neologism hyperbole, litotes, euphemism imagery: synaesthesia personification simile, metaphor, metonymy, synechdoche symbol, conceit pragmatic devices: apostrophe, rhetorical question, irony 4) structure: a) relationship denotative vs. connotative level b) relationship utterance vs. composition c) coherence, internal necessity vs. contradiction, ambiguity, paradox