Close Study of a Text: Poetry

Posted: January 31, 2010 in Uncategorized

18th March 1893 – 4th November 1918


INTRODUCTION: Close Study of a Text

  • Emphasis on language as the means of expressing ideas

Essential procedures:

  1. Identify the text’s purpose and ideas
  2. Identify the formal/technical characteristics of the text
  3. Describe how the themes and ideas interact with the stylistic techniques


Identifying the text’s themes and ideas:

In poetry, the title is vital as an introduction to the theme and tone of the poem.  Owen’s ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ is ironic in the use of ‘anthem’ and very critical tone in the use of the word ‘doomed’, which sounds as disturbing as its meaning.

  • A close study of a text should look at words in detail, beginning with the title to describe how the use of language determines the readers response.  In ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’, the title has prepared us for the text that follows and begun to determine our response to that text.


Look at the texts structure.  Here form and content interact.

In poetry, various kinds of structures are used to develop ideas:

  • Eg:  Stanzas: one stanza can present one aspect or idea, then the following may focus on its opposite.
  • It is vital to consider and describe the way in which the author uses structure to explain how this affects the communication of ideas and themes in the text


    Describing the language techniques of a text – the devices used by the author:

    • Figurative language techniques
    • You must identify the technique and explain why it is being used
    • How is it effective in communicating the ideas of the writer?

      STEP FOUR:

      Analyse the interaction of ideas with literary forms and language:

      • Why has the author chosen particular words and forms to express themes of the text?
      • In Owen’s poetry, different kinds of language and structural forms are used to convey his ideas about the suffering of soldiers in WWI.  The vivid realism and harsh diction, for example, help us understand the reasons for his bitter criticism and engage us with the issues.
      • The style expresses the meaning, as language interacts with ideas to make them more forceful.


      • Poetry is used to captivate through a variety of techniques of language
      • A good poem usually disturbs our equilibrium, stability, pricking our conscience, lifting our hearts or engaging our minds
      • They embody intensities of thought and emotion


      STEP ONE:

      • Read aloud – words, images, rhythms and rhymes are to be heard and savoured
      • Concentrate on the aural qualities of the language
      • Reading aloud also gives an appreciation for the rhythmic pulse – that help poet’s emphasis key words.

      STEP TWO:

      Describing a poem:

      1. Know the author’s biography to help interpret their themes and expressions
      2. Poets speaking in the first person may want to reveal themselves directly, or to personalise a more general experience.  So often it is better to refer to them as the ‘speaker’.
      3. History – Set the poem in the context of its time
      4. Know where the literary history of the poet – the artistic movements they were involved in
      5. Understand the theme
      6. Style – poetry enables the use of rhythm, rhyme, metaphor, symbol, structural etc to enhance and intensify ideas.

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