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Poetry & Language A Formalist Approach. Poetry and Language Course questions 1.Practical: What are the flexible, concrete strategies for “making meaning”

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Presentation on theme: "Poetry & Language A Formalist Approach. Poetry and Language Course questions 1.Practical: What are the flexible, concrete strategies for “making meaning”"— Presentation transcript:

1 Poetry & Language A Formalist Approach

2 Poetry and Language Course questions 1.Practical: What are the flexible, concrete strategies for “making meaning” of various types of literature? How does a literary work “construct” meaning? 2.Conceptual: What is “language” and how does it work? What is “meaning’ and how does it work? Opening claim: Most, if not all poetry is about language itself! – Allows us to ask both questions simultaneously

3 Poetry and Language Defamiliarized – Poetry uses familiar language (words, metaphor, etc). But it uses them in a condensed style and unfamiliar context. Draws our attention to: – Expressive qualities of language: rhythm, rhyme, sound – Semantic mechanics: (multiple and unfixed) meaning of words – Work of language in practice: how do things like metaphor or imagery actually work? To understand what each poem “means” we need to interrogate the poem’s use of language – “How is the language working and to what ends?” Question: Not “what does it mean” but “how is the poem using language to construct its meaning?” WHAT IS IT “DOING” WITH LANGUAGE?

4 A Formalist Approach In asking this question, we will continue to apply a formalist approach to analysis – Recognizes the “authorial intent” fallacy – Privileges “the text itself” as the site of meaning – Interprets the “form” of the text (how it appears “on the page”) as a key component of the text Similar to what Russ McDonald suggests, a formalist analysis looks for: – Formal patterns in the structure, metrics, and figurative language of the text in close readings – Declines “paraphrase”: the text in “other words” is not the text

5 How is the poem using language to construct its meaning? She used to let her golden hair fly free. For the wind to toy and tangle and molest; Her eyes were brighter than the radiant west. (Seldom they shine so now.) I used to see Pity look out of those deep eyes on me. (“It was false pity,” you would now protest.) I had love’s tinder heaped within my breast; What wonder that the flame burnt furiously? She did not walk in any mortal way, But with angelic progress; when she spoke, Unearthly voices sang in unison. She seemed divine among the dreary folk Of earth. You say she is not so today? Well, though the bow’s unbent, the wound bleeds on.

6 How is the poem using language to construct its meaning? My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun, Coral is far more red than her lips red, If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun: If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head: I have seen roses damasked, red and white, But no such roses see I in her cheeks, And in some perfumes is there more delight, Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks. I love to hear her speak, yet well I know, That music hath a far more pleasing sound: I grant I never saw a goddess go, My mistress when she walks treads on the ground. And yet by heaven I think my love as rare, As any she belied with false compare.

7 How is the poem using language to construct its meaning? She used to let her golden hair fly free. For the wind to toy and tangle and molest; Her eyes were brighter than the radiant west. (Seldom they shine so now.) I used to see Pity look out of those deep eyes on me. (“It was false pity,” you would now protest.) I had love’s tinder heaped within my breast; What wonder that the flame burnt furiously? She did not walk in any mortal way, But with angelic progress; when she spoke, Unearthly voices sang in unison. She seemed divine among the dreary folk Of earth. You say she is not so today? Well, though the bow’s unbent, the wound bleeds on. My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun, Coral is far more red than her lips red, If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun: If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head: I have seen roses damasked, red and white, But no such roses see I in her cheeks, And in some perfumes is there more delight, Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks. I love to hear her speak, yet well I know, That music hath a far more pleasing sound: I grant I never saw a goddess go, My mistress when she walks treads on the ground. And yet by heaven I think my love as rare, As any she belied with false compare.

8 How is the poem using language to construct its meaning? As virtuous men pass mildly away, And whisper to their souls to go, Whilst some of their sad friends do say, "The breath goes now," and some say, "No," So let us melt, and make no noise, No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move; 'Twere profanation of our joys To tell the laity our love. Moving of the earth brings harms and fears, Men reckon what it did and meant; But trepidation of the spheres, Though greater far, is innocent.

9 How is the poem using language to construct its meaning? Dull sublunary lovers' love (Whose soul is sense) cannot admit Absence, because it doth remove Those things which elemented it. But we, by a love so much refined That our selves know not what it is, Inter-assured of the mind, Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss. Our two souls therefore, which are one, Though I must go, endure not yet A breach, but an expansion. Like gold to airy thinness beat.

10 How is the poem using language to construct its meaning? If they be two, they are two so As stiff twin compasses are two: Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show To move, but doth, if the other do; And though it in the center sit, Yet when the other far doth roam, It leans, and hearkens after it, And grows erect, as that comes home. Such wilt thou be to me, who must, Like the other foot, obliquely run; Thy firmness makes my circle just, And makes me end where I begun.


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