Introduction to Literature

Script, 2001

11 Pages


Introduction to Literature

3.The main elements of poetry

3.1. Rhythm

in the verse form the rhythm is much more pronounced to catch the listeners´ attention > poetic rhythm

3.1.1 Rhythm in everyday English

a) Syllable-stress: - every word has a rhythm of its own e.g. atténtion, ínteresting, ...

b) Phrase-stress: - only the significant words of a sentence are stressed

- the contrast between strong and weak syllables are characteristic of the English language

- important words are emphasized

c) Sentence-structure: - differences between the use of long or short sentences, questions or statements, ...

- the sentence-structure is closely connected with its intonation

- the voice changes its direction only on stressed syllables e.g. Excuse me, does this bús gó to Trafálgar Square?

d) Emphatic stress: - to make a special point normally unstressed syllables are stressed

- it helps to add an emotional weight to the language

e.g. It´syourfault (and nobody else´s)!

3.1.2 Rhythm in poetry; various types of metre

Definition: Poetic rhythm is a pronounced and purposeful repetition of stress in more or less regular patterns, which are fused with the other sound elements and with sense.

Auf deutsch heißt das: Der Rhythmus in der Poesie ist eine ausgeprägte und entschlossene Wiederholung des Betonungsmusters in mehr oder weniger regelmäßigen Mustern. Diese sind mit den anderen Klangelementen und mit Bedeutung verknüpft.

> The rhythmical patterns recurring in poems are called the metre .

> A metre is the arrangement of words according to strong or weak beats.

a) Iambus or Iamb [ ]

> e.g. avoíd, delíght, ...

> English poetry is mainly based on iamb or iambic foot

The iambic pentameter (fünf jambische Hebungen) is the most common form.

> it consists of one unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one e.g. avóid, delíght, ...

> Because natural speech rhythm works against this metre, there are irregularities which help to avoid monotony

> an unstressed syllable at the end of a line is called feminine ending / rhyme

a stressed masculine ending / rhyme

b) Trochee [ ]

> e.g. tróchee, cómrades, éarly, háppen, ...

> opposed to natural speech rhythm >> artificial and monotonous sound > provides variety because it inverts the iambic pattern

c) Anapaests [ ]

> e.g. intervéne, underneáth, ...

> provides a sort of galloping rhythm > hardly bearable in whole poems > provides variety to the iambic rhythm

> suitable for flippancy (Leichtfertigkeit) and frivolity e.g. limericks

d) Dactyl [ ]

> e.g. háppily, élephant, mérrily, ...

> very artificial sound

> varies the iambic pattern

e) Spondees [ ]

> gives the poem a slow heavy movement

> mood of death and decay (Verfall, Untergang)

> provides variations to the iambic rhythm of English poetry

3.2. Rhyme

> connected with the French word ´rimer´ which means ´to versify´ i.e. to make language rhythmically flow and to provide it with rhymes

kurz gesagt: Die Sprache bekommt Reime und einen rhythmischen Fluss.

3.2.1 What is rhyme?

> sign and dine >> complete/perfect rhyme: - the n´s are identically pronounced

- the [ ] are ” ”

- both words have the same stress

> the rhyme has to be the last vowel e.g. gréet - decéit visit - is it

> masculine rhyme: rhyme consists of a single stressed syllable (greet - deceit)

> feminine rhyme: rhyme consists of two syllables the first is stressed, the second syllable is unstressed

> the feminine rhyme is also called double rhyme (visit - is it)

> partial rhyme: die drei angeführten Kriterien treffen nicht alle zu

> rhymes based on consonants: escaped - scooped, groined - groaned

> apart from end-rhymes there are internal rhymes e.g. We were the first that ever burst.

3.2.2 What is the function of rhyme?

> Rhyme reinforces the rhythmical pattern by binding the lines together according to a certain rhyme scheme . It draws the reader´s attention to the most important words which are often at the end of lines.

auf deutsch:

Reim stärkt das rhythmische Muster, in dem er die Zeilen nach einem bestimmten Reimschema zusammenfügt. Er zieht die Aufmerksamkeit des Lesers auf die wichtigsten Wörter, die meist am Ende einer Zeile stehen.

> It can have the effect of shock by bringing two words together which have an opposite meaning e.g. mass - poison-gas

> In limericks the spelling of words is changed just to look like perfect rhymes. e.g. A wonderful bird is the pelican

His mouth can hold more than his belly can

3.2.3 Poetry based on metre and rhyme

> A stanza (Strophe) is a group of lines combined according to a certain metrical pattern and rhyme scheme.

auf deutsch:

Eine Strophe ist eine Gruppe von Zeilen, die nach einem bestimmten metrischen und rhythmischen Muster verknüpft sind.

> there are two most common types: the heroic couplet and the sonnet The heroic couplet

> consists of two jambic pentameters (fünfhebiger Jambus) > is the shortest form of stanza

> is marked by the metrical identical aa/bb/cc/... rhymes (little pairs, couplets) > is based on the iambic pentameter

> the octosyllabic couplet (achtsilbiges Verspaar) is based on iambic tetrameters (dreihebiger Jambus) The sonnet

> consists of fourteen iambic pentameters grouped according to various rhyme schemes

> The Italian or Petrarchan sonnet consists of two parts:

- an octet (Achtzeiler) made of two quartains (Vierzeiler) usually rhyming abba/abba

- an sestet (Sechzeiler) usually rhyming cdc/dcd

> close relationship between structure and the poet´s idea > The Shakerpearean or Elizabethan sonnet consists of:

- three quartains

- a couplet

rhyming abab/cdcd/efef/gg

3.2.4 Unrhymed verse

> e.g. blank verse and free verse

> blank verse is made up of unrhymed iambic pentameters

> free verse doesn´t have the traditional rules both of rhyme and metre > free verse is nearer to natural speech rhyhtm

3.3 Sound

> is a special combination of musical and linguistic elements

3.3.1 Special sound effects

> example: In Xanadudid Kubla Khan a

A stately pleasure-dome decree:b

Where Alph, the sacred river ran a

Through caverns measureless to man a

Down to a sunless seab

> end-rhyme scheme: lines 1, 3 and 4 rhyme together and lines 2 and 5 (abaab)

> assonance (the repetition of the vowels a and u in the first line) can also be named internal rhyme e.g. Xan - Khan, du - Ku

> alliteration (the repetition of consonants at the beginning of words) strengthens the sound and musical qualities of a poem e.g. Kubla - Khan, dome - decree, river - ran,

> rhythmical pattern: first four lines are regular iambic tetrameters and the last line, which has three feet (Hebungen) only brings an abrupt change in the rhythm

3.3.2 Sound without sense: nonsense poetry

> see p. 44

3.3.3 The fusion of sound and sense

> richness of words: some word sound more pleasant than others

> literary works are likely to appeal to a small number of people, because their interest depends on the knowledge of the language they have been written in

> poetical affect arises from the intimate fusion of sound and sense > see p. 45

3.4. Language

> English language is made up of different streams - the Germanic and the Romance. The first one is more concrete and simple e.g. house, garden, ... The second is more abstract and intellectual e.g. fantasy, innocence, ...

>> enourmous range of vocabulary and expression

3.4.1 The emotional use of words Denotations and connotations of words

denotation: literally meaning e.g. hearth = the floor of a fireplace

connotation: associations to a word e.g. hearth means safety, cosiness, home itself, ...

Poets use various connotations to evoke emotions >> emotional use of language Words in their context

Words give meaning and life to a poem. They also receive life from their context. The web of associations evoke emotional responses in the reader.

> p. 47

3.4.2 The metaphorical use of words

> It helps to link factual information and poetical expression by using images or imagery.

> In metaphorical language words are transformed from literal to non-literal meaning. Poets use this to make the reader share his experience. They appeal to the senses of the reader.

> Pictures are formed by comparing familiar and unfamiliar things.

> Metaphorical language may occur in the form of similie, metaphor, animation, personification or symbol. Similie

> two pictures are compared by means of a linking-word e.g. as ... as or like My love is like a red, red rose Metaphor

> is a comparison without the linking-words as ... as or like. It says one thing is another and not like another.

> dead metaphors e.g. egghead (very intellectual person), crackpot (somebody with mad ideas)

> creative metaphors : „There´s daggers in his smiles”

- contrast between smiles and daggers

- daggers evokes more emotions than the word danger

- it appeals to our senses of sight and touch

> the interweaving of metaphors e.g. daffodils are compared to dancing people, to dancing waves, to the shining stars, ... Animation

> things or objects are presented alive

> when they have human qualities, we talk of personification The symbol

> extreme form of metaphor

> conventional symbols: the violet = modesty, the lily = purity, red rose = passion, the cross = Christianity, the dove = peace, ...

> creative poetic symbols: the metaphoric meaning is slowly developed into a symbolic meaning

3.4.3 Poetical language and poetic diction or style Poetical language

> words are arranged to arouse a feeling of beauty in the reader Poetic diction or style

> each poet has his own diction or style like every literary epoch. The poet is influenced by the period he lives in.

> simple or complex sentence structure, smooth or jerky rhythm, ... > mainly felt in the choice of artistic devices

4. The interpretation of poetry

4.1 How to approach a poem

> be open-minded and receptive

> do not try to comment on every word or poetic device > say what you mean in plain English

4.2 How to analyse a poem systematically and gather material for an interpretation

4.2.1 General understanding of the poem

> read it two or three times

> What sort of poem is it? (narrative, descriptive or reflective)

> What kind of situation is presented? Who is speaking?

Is he addressing anybody in particular?

> What is the poem´s theme ?

What has the title to do with the subject matter of the poem?

> What do you think is the author´s main intention? What response is he trying to evoke in the reader? > What is the prevailing tone or mood?

4.2.2 Detailed analysis of the poem Vocabulary

> Is there anything remarkable about the used vocabulary, as far as the speech level is concerned?

> Do the words belong to one area, field, or theme ?(war - religion, sea - countryside) > Look at the word classes (nouns, verbs, adjectives). Is one of them predominant? > Does the poet repeat certain words to give special emphasis to them? > Are some words contrasted with others? Syntactical structure and sytactical figures of speech

> Syntax refers to the way in which words and phrases are joined together to form meaningful units.

> figures of speech (repetition, parallelism, antithesis) vary the sentence structure and give special emphasis to certain phrases and ideas.

> Are most sentences long and complex or short and simple? Intended effect?

> What kind of sentences (statements, questions, exclamations) are mainly used? Are there any marked changes in the syntactical structure in the course of the poem? What do they indicate about the organization of the poem?

> Are there any striking irregularities (inversion, omission of subjects, predicate)?

> Which phrases, ideas or images have been particularly emphasized by means of repetition, parallelism or antithesis?

> Does the metrical or rhythmical pattern coincide with the sytactical structure?

What is the particular effect of run-on-lines or the placement of the caesuras in this poem? The composition of the poem: rhythm, rhyme and sound effects

> Is there a rhythmical pattern? Based on a certain rhyme? Variations?

> Are there any rhymes? Is there a rhyme scheme? Are the rhymes merely ornamental or do they give special emphasis to words that are essential for the meaning?

> Are all the lines of the same length? If not, what is the special effect of the shortest and the longest line? Is it free verse? Do you recogize a traditional type of poetry (blank verse, heroic couplet)? Is it based on a regular stanza form (ballad, sonnet)?

> Are there any special sound effects such as assonance, consonance and alliteration? What is their specific contribution to the total effect? Emotive language and imagery

> Are there various connotations of the key word in this poem? What associations are aroused in the reader´s mind?

> Does the poem contain any instance of animation or personification? > What kind of images are used - similies, metaphors, symbols?

> What do the images suggest?

Is the imagery merely ornamental or is it an integral part of the poem?

4.3. How to write an interpretation

> reorganize the gathered material and work out an outline

> Interpretation consists of three parts: introduction, main body, conclusion

> Introduction: - name of the poet

- title and genre of the poem

- literary epoch

- theme of the poem, say what it is about

> Main body: - explain how the poet conveys his message

- present the results of the gathering in the best possible order

- underline the key terms

- spot, name and explain the function of the various devices

> Conclusion: - try to jugde how successful the poet has been in fusing message and form together

- you can compare it to other poems of the same poet or other poets

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Introduction to Literature
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Introduction, Literature
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Martin Rommel (Author), 2001, Introduction to Literature, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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