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Professor of English Language University of Huddersfield

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1 Professor of English Language University of Huddersfield
Opposition in poetry Lesley Jeffries Professor of English Language University of Huddersfield

2 Audience participation bit...
Write down a noun Collect up another noun from your neighbour Put them into one of the following frames: She wanted a X. He wanted a Y. It was a X, not a Y. It was more X than Y However silly it sounds, think of a context in which it could be used.

3 Structure of talk: Introduction – constructed opposites
Conventional opposition Constructed opposites – examples and triggers Textual meaning

4 1. Introduction Constructed opposites: Your examples....
It’s a cowpat, not a roundabout! She wanted a diary, he wanted a pond.

5 2. Conventional opposition
Lexical semantics – sense relations Complementary – mutually exclusive: alive/dead; right/wrong; man/woman Converse – mutually dependent: borrow/lend; husband/wife; above/below Gradable – range between extremes: hot/cold; tall/short; beautiful/ugly Reversive – two directions in a process: raise/lower; break/mend

6 2. Conventional opposition
Complementary – mutually exclusive: alive/dead; right/wrong; man/woman Logical relationship – you can only be one or the other: She is not alive = she is dead. You are not wrong = you are right. It was a man = it was not a woman.

7 2. Conventional opposition
Converse – mutually dependent: borrow/lend; husband/wife; above/below Logical relationship where both or neither must exist: If there is a husband, there must be a wife. If someone is borrowing, someone is lending. If something is above, there is something below.

8 2. Conventional opposition
Gradable – range between extremes: hot/cold; tall/short; beautiful/ugly Although often treated as complementaries (you are not beautiful = you are ugly), in fact there are many levels between and the test is to see if you can ‘intensify’ using very or quite to show how much is relevant: She is very tall / not so tall / rather short. This room is terribly hot / rather cold.

9 2. Semantic opposition Reversive – two directions in a process: raise/lower; break/mend These opposites reverse the direction of a process, though of course you cannot always do so in practice! There is no obvious ‘test’: First he raised the flag and then he lowered it. Can you mend the vase I have broken?

10 2. Conventional opposition is learned

11 3. Constructed opposites - Philip Larkin
The North Ship (Faber 1943): Is it for now or for always, The world hangs on a stalk? Is it a trick or a trysting-place, The woods we have found to walk?

12 3. Constructed opposites - Philip Larkin
The North Ship (Faber 1943): Is it for now or for always, The world hangs on a stalk? Is it a trick or a trysting-place, The woods we have found to walk?

13 3. Constructed opposites - Philip Larkin
Is it a mirage or miracle, Your lips that lift at mine: And the suns like a juggler's juggling-balls, Are they a sham or a sign? Shine out, my sudden angel, Break fear with breast and brow, I take you now and for always, For always is always now.

14 3. Constructed opposites - Philip Larkin
now or always trick or trysting-place mirage or miracle, sham or sign now and for always, for always is always now.

15 Opposition: examples Until Wednesday I couldn’t decide whether Russell Brand was a fatuous buffoon or a misunderstood genius. by Simon Kelner, The Independent This begins to set up a paradigm, generalised as good versus bad versions of female identity (according to this male writer) which contrasts experiencing life with eco-terrorism and likens the former to shaving whilst the latter is equivalent to (presumably) hairy women as preferred by the abnormal male!

16 What’s going on here? Parallel structures in two noun phrases:
a fatuous buffoon or a misunderstood genius Result is to set up two sets of oppositions: fatuous vs misunderstood buffoon vs. genius

17 4. Constructed opposites – Conservative Party
LABOUR SAYS HE’S BLACK. TORIES SAY HE’S BRITISH. X says he’s Y X = Labour vs. Tories (conventional opposites in Britain) Y thus expected to be opposite This produces textual opposite: BLACK  BRITISH

18 4. Constructed opposites – triggers
I started the development of a list of opposition ‘triggers’: Negation (not X but Y) The politicians that the public likes best are not the aloof ones but the human ones. Parallel structures We took coffee, in industrial quantities, Mr Blair, as usual, took nothing for granted. Coordination (and, but, or) a struggle (…) between politicians as soap powder and parties as vehicles for informed debate

19 4. Constructed opposites – Big Bang Theory
Big Bang Theory (U.S. sitcom): A bit like but with nerdy scientists… I’m a physicist, not a hippy:

20 4. Constructed opposites – Big Bang Theory
I’m a physicist, not a hippy: Trigger: negation (X, not Y) Opposition type – complementary Underlying conventional opposition – rational vs. emotional Evaluative intention: good vs. bad Humour: the value system of the nerdy… from the outside!

21 Textual construction of the female body
Nor am I the kind of guy who only goes for earthy types (you know, girls who prefer eco-terrorism to experiencing life and refuse to, like, shave and stuff). (from Jeffries 2007:113-4)

22 Doorsteps Cutting bread brings her hands back to me -
the left, with its thick wedding ring, steadying the loaf. Small plump hands before age shirred and speckled them.

23 Doorsteps Cutting bread brings her hands back to me -
the left, with its thick wedding ring, steadying the loaf. Small plump hands before age shirred and speckled them.

24 Doorsteps Bread: Colour Spread Presentation

25 Doorsteps Bread: Colour – Always white, coburg shape stoneground wholemeal Spread Presentation

26 Doorsteps Bread: Colour – Always white, coburg shape stoneground wholemeal Spread – already softened butter butter’s counterfeit Presentation

27 Doorsteps Bread: Colour – Always white, coburg shape stoneground wholemeal Spread – already softened butter butter’s counterfeit Presentation – herringboned across a doylied plate falling forward into the crumbs

28 Song of the Non-existent
This is the hour between dog and wolf the sky becomes lighter and darker at the same time something adrift and homeless Is caught and pronounces itself a nightingale your sudden reluctance to remember How hard it was, and how beautiful, to live.

29 Textual meaning A coherent set of textual meaning functions:
Naming and Describing Representing Actions/Events/States Equating and Contrasting Exemplifying and Enumerating Prioritising Implying and Assuming Negating Hypothesising Presenting others’ speech and thoughts Representing time, space and society

30 Thanks for listening


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