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Antar Abdellah. What makes a text literary? Is what we value as ‘literariness’ located inside a text, or does it reside in the ways in which poetry, drama.

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Presentation on theme: "Antar Abdellah. What makes a text literary? Is what we value as ‘literariness’ located inside a text, or does it reside in the ways in which poetry, drama."— Presentation transcript:

1 Antar Abdellah

2 What makes a text literary? Is what we value as ‘literariness’ located inside a text, or does it reside in the ways in which poetry, drama and fiction are read and used? This chapter introduces a variety of approaches to defining, analyzing and valuing literary texts in English. 3 approaches

3 1 The ‘inherency approach sees literariness as embedding in certain formal properties of language: literary language is regarded as distinct from more practical‘ uses of language in that language itself is highlighted.

4 2 The ‘sociocultural approach’ sees literariness as socially and culturally determined; for example, drawing attention to the fact that conceptions of literature vary historically and culturally.

5 3 The ‘cognitive approach’ relates literary language to mental processes. Deborah Tannen‘s (1989) suggestion that linguistic repetition derives from a basic human drive to repeat is a kind of cognitive argument. Guy Cook (1994) argues that literary texts have an effect on the mind, helping us think in new ways and refreshing and changing our mental representations of the world‘.

6  In his Poetics, Aristotle applied the ‘scientific’ method of analysis to literary works, identifying and systematically describing their distinctive features.  ‘stylistics’ was developed by academics working in Moscow, Leningrad and Prague in the early 20 th century: the Russian Formalists and the Prague School Structuralists.  They viewed literary works as self-contained aesthetic objects.  The early Formalists focused on how poetic devices in literature produce an effect which they called ostraneniye (‘making strange’), or defamiliarisation  Formalists were concerned with the poetic function of language. They saw this as closely connected to ‘literariness’, which they defined as the special properties of language that could be located in literary texts.  Roman Jakobson [1960, p. 356] developed an influential typology of language functions:

7 The referential function is associated with the context of the message. It focuses on conveying information about the world beyond the communicative event itself e.g. "Hold onto your hats! It’s a breezy one today" the speaker is conveying information about the world. The emotive or expressive function is associated with the speaker/ writer. It focuses on their attitude toward what they are speaking about, which may be expressed through a particular choice of words, grammar, or tone of voice. The conative function is associated with the hearer/reader. It is concerned with aspects of language designed to affect or influence the hearer/reader in some way. This function may be expressed through features such as requests and commands.

8 The phatic function is associated with the contact. It is fulfilled by language which is addressed at initiating, sustaining or closing the channel of communication, e.g. ‘Well, here we are chatting away at last’ or by ritualized formulas, e.g. ‘Lend me your ears’. The metalingual function is associated with the language code itself. An utterance performs a metalingual function when it refers to the code and how the code works. For example, whenever interactants need to check up on their mutual comprehension of the code they are using, they focus on this function of language, asking questions such as ‘Do you know what I mean?’ or ‘What do you mean by “ritualized formulas”?’ The poetic function is associated with the message. It focuses on the message for its own sake, emphasizing the linguistic qualities of words themselves rather than any other factors in the situation. The repetition of the /h/ initially in the stressed syllables is a prominent piece of phonetic patterning.

9 It is a term usually used in art, having opposite meaning to background. Foregrounding has its origin with the Czech theorist Jan Mukarovský and refers to the range of stylistic effects that occur in literature, whether at the phonetic level (e.g., alliteration, rhyme), the grammatical level (e.g., inversion, ellipsis), or the semantic level (e.g., metaphor, irony). In literary texts, foregrounding is structured: it tends to be both systematic and hierarchical. That is, similar features may recur, such as a pattern of assonance or a related group of metaphors, and one set of features will dominate the others (Mukarovský, 1964, p. 20)

10 Foregrounding is the opposite of automatization, that is, the deautomatization of an act; the more an act is automatized, the less it is consciously executed; the more it is foregrounded, the more completely conscious does it become. The technique of art, including literature, is to make objects "unfamiliar," to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged. Foregrounding is the psychological effect a literary reader has as s/he is reading a work of literature in the sense that foregrounding in literary texts strikes readers as interesting and captures their attention.

11 Foregrounded spelling and graphology:  This text illustrates graphological deviation. Usually bold font is used to make whole words stand out from the surrounding text, but here, in order to draw attention to the constituent components of the neologism, bold is used to emphasize parts of the words: simplicity and technology. In this text we have the coinage of simpology which draws attention to the process of its own formation: as a combination, apparently, of simplicity and technology.  Deviation can occur at the level of phonology, graphology, [ the writing system including punctuation, layout, size and typeface], grammar or lexis and meaning. Graphological deviation is closely linked to phonological deviation.  Semantic deviation is associated with figurative language, particularly metaphor and simile.

12  Semantic deviation usually takes the form of the juxtaposition of words which do not normally occur together ; in this text the noun phrases known,knowns, known, unknowns and unknown unknowns seem to be designed to draw attention to their paradoxical nature

13  Simpology  The perfect balance between simplicity and technology  The Unknown As we know, There are known knows There are things we know we know We also know There are known unknowns. That is to say We know there are some things We do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, The ones we don’t know We don’t know.

14 While deviation might be characterized as ‘unexpected irregularity’ in a text, parallelism is ‘unexpected regularity’ (McIntyre, 2003, p. 4), involving prominent patterns of repetition at the level of sound, grammatical structure or meaning. Phonological parallelism is the combining of the same or similar sounds. Alliteration results from the repetition of word-initial consonants; the repetition of similar vowel sounds produces assonance. Rhyme is present when similar syllables are repeated, and the repetition of rhythmic patterns produces metre. Grammatical parallelism is the repetition of phrase and/or clause structure. Semantic parallelism involves the repetition and sometimes extension of the meaning of words, phrases and images. We also find repetition of individual words, and many of these repetitions occur in parallel structures: There are known knowns /There are things we know we know;

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16 Eagleton argues that there is no common factor nor intrinsic essence to ‘literature’. Rather, we need to take social and ideological factors into account, in order to understand the role of literature in society. For Eagleton, literature consists of those works of writing which are valued and revered in a society for particular social and historical reasons, the so-called literary canon has been ‘fashioned by particular people for particular reasons at a particular time’. For Eagleton, the decision about what counts as literature is ideological.

17 Eagleton [1983] sees the concept of literature in England as relating closely to the needs of the times and the priorities of powerful social groups within society. For example, in the 18 th century the polite manners and taste in literature helped to bind the middle and upper classes after a period of civil war in the 19 th century. Eagleton claims that the concept of literature which we now take for granted emerged only in the early 19 th century, out of the revolutionary Romantic period. In the Victorian age, literature took its place as a body of shared and revered ultimate truths about life, beauty and moral ideals which would ‘save our souls and heal the state’.

18 Historians have shown that English literature was clearly connected with the emergence of England as a nation and with defining what counted as ‘standard English’. Eagleton’s theory is very much linked to its own historical context, that of Europe and North America in the 1960s and 1970s. Writing just after the 1960s’ period of ‘social hope, political militancy and high theory’ Eagleton deconstructs the concept of ‘literature’ using the Marxist and poststructuralist theory which was influential at the time.

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20 A- Literature as enclosure (Reading B) According to Widdowson, the distinctiveness of literature is based on a number of characteristics which literary texts have, but which non- literary texts do not. So what are these differences? An important part of Widdowson’s argument refers to maxims coined by the English philosopher Paul Grice (1975) ; basically, Grice argued that all conversation is founded on the ‘co-operative principle’, an unspoken agreement between participants in a conversation. This assumes that speakers are generally following these maxims or rules:

21 1- Maxim of Quantity: Don’t give too much information or too little information. 2- Maxim of Quality : Don’t lie or mislead. 3- Maxim of relation : Don’t be irrelevant. 4- Maxim of manner : Don’t be unclear, disorderly, ambiguous and obscure.

22 According to Widdowson, “literary texts are of their nature untrue, uninformative, irrelevant and obscure. The maxims of quality,quantity, relation and manner are consistently denied, and consequently literary texts give rise to complex and irresolvable implicatures on a vast scale. It is this which constitutes their aesthetic effect”. The lack of direct referential connection with the readers’ concerns, the flouting of Gricean maxims, produces what Widdowson calls the ‘enclosing effect’, which he claims is a characteristic feature of all literature. Widdowson’s main concern is not about what ‘the writer meant by the text, but what the text means, or might mean, to the reader’. This interest in the construction of individual ‘readings’,[ what happens in people’s heads when they read literature] is further developed in cognitive poetics. This is a relatively new approach to literary studies which draws on insights from the cognitive sciences in an attempt to relate texts ‘to their presumed or observed psychological effects’ (Steen & Gavins, 2003, p. 1).

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24 In view of Guy Cook [ 1994], what distinguishes literary from non- literary texts is not linguistic deviation on its own, but discourse deviation. Cook (1994) argues that readers approach a text with certain background knowledge and expectations about ‘objects, people, situation, and events’, and that these expectations are disrupted by literary discourse so that the reader’s schemata are challenged and changed to produce schema refreshment. For Cook, the term ‘discourse’ refers not only to the language but also to the world it creates within the literary work.

25 Semino emphasizes the ‘less elitist’ approach of cognitive poetics in viewing literary and non-literary language on a continuum in terms of creativity and in the analysis of popular as well as canonical texts. ‘Value’, in cognitive poetics, appears to be related to the artfulness and significance of the schema refreshment. There are criticisms of cognitive poetics for a lack of attention to contextual issues. Jeffries (2001) argues that literature does not always have to be ‘schema refreshing’, because readers from minority social groups may experience literary impact when their point of view and experience is actually represented and reinforced.

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27 Literary texts in English have traditionally been valued in relation to criteria set up in the canon, i.e. the body of authoritative ‘great works’ which are seen as the finest examples of writing in English. Eagleton [1983]argued that literature with a capital ‘L’ has no special intrinsic quality, but is composed of works which have come to be highly valued for historical and ideological reasons. Feminists argue that the small number of women writers is related to the traditional monopoly of men over poetry writing. The canon has also been attacked as elitist and deep-rooted within the British class system. F.R. Leavis’ belief that we have to look to the past for truly great literary uses of the English language and that true literary value can only be appreciated by a small cultural elite

28 The ‘postcolonial’ writers began to develop new ways of using the English language and literary. A subsequent generation of writers reflect a rather different context of local ‘counter-traditions and global migratory patterns. By the turn of the 21 st century, the increasing use of English in global communication has loosened the original close connection between the English language, English literature, and England as a nation state. Pennycook (2003) suggests that the global spread of English is usually seen either as a swallowing up of local languages and cultural practices into one global market. From (the ‘homogeny position’) to (the ‘heterogeny position’).

29 There is a ‘fluid mixture of cultural heritage... and popular culture’ rather than a single authoritative English literature tradition. Thus the historical forces which Eagleton traces in the development of ‘English literature’ could now be moving in directions which will lead to its demise.

30 One of the striking differences between English literature and the popular forms is the multimodal and improvisational nature of art in hip-hop, where a hybrid poem/song may be combined with music and dance thus mixing different modes: verbal, visual, sound and movement. Outside literature, there are increasing number of examples of ‘high culture’ art which mix words with other modes and use intertextuality, recombination and performance to produce creative effects.

31 This chapter has explored 3 approaches to analyzing literary creativity: an inherency approach, associated with Formalism and the work of Roman Jakobson, Likewise, it has explored new emerging forms of creativity in English in the global culture of speakers of English worldwide and in hybrid art forms, at the beginning of the 21 st century.


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