Saturday, December 5, 2015

Alliteration explained

Key features of literary language

The limit that separates literary language from other forms of language is blurry. Many works of scientists and journalists can be considered true pieces of literary work.
The extension of the text is not a key feature, since it’s so variable; it can range from a few verses to a hundred or thousands of pages.
That said, a literary text has very peculiar internal characteristics that are also very hard to point out. It shares these features with other types of texts: advertising, slogans, journalism, etc.
1.       Uninterested nature
Explained above.
2.       Interpretations
A literary work can be read under multiple interpretations, as many as readers and listeners are out there. This does not interfere with communication; on the contrary, many readers who are interested on a specific work often do not understand it, or understand it in a very superficial way. But communication is still satisfactory. This couldn’t happen with ordinary messages with a practical goal, since it would lead to mistakes.
3.       Meaning
Words acquire new meaning. The reader gives the whole text a meaning that goes beyond that of isolated words. The literary work is as much direct transmission of content as it is a suggestion. Some consider that a literary work consists of two parts: writing, that of the author; and reading, that of the reader. In this sense, the readers complete the work, and therefore have to know cultural and linguistic references implied in the work.

4.       Originality
The author always looks for some degree of originality. In order to do that, one creates a personal language, and observes reality from new perspectives, trying to express nuances, subtleties, and depths that aren’t easily accessible to anyone.
5.       Literary devices
According to traditional rhetoric, all expressive sources can be figures of speech: syntactic, semantic, and phonetic. They are used to decorate and intensify the language. Many of them are based on repetition and parallelism. Repetition produces rhythm in both prose and verses. It can light up any type of prose, but abusing rhythm can risk falling into excessive musicality and nonsense.
Many hundreds of literary devices have been described.
One of the devices that’s most characteristic of literary writing is special adjectives, such as epithets. These are ornamental adjectives, not strictly needed for the comprehension of the message. A good writer always tries to avoid trivial epithets, and to generally disregard those, which do not produce any new effects on the reader.
Literary language has a high degree of elaboration.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


1)                  Write a short bio of the author, and the historical context or literary movement to which he or she belongs.
2)                  Identify the subject.
3)                  Analyze the title (if it's eponymous, emblematic, or symbolic).
4)                  Type of narrator (omniscient, subjective, or objective).
5)                  Space and time location.
6)                  Describe the characters.
7)                  Define the structure (check if you can divide it, like "A la deriva", in beginning, middle, and end).
8)                  Analyze the different literary techniques being used (comparisons, images, metaphors, personifications, etc.).
9)                  Draw conclusions (you can include your personal opinion about the work).
You can alter this order when writing a literary analysis; you can for example move the exposition of the subject to the end, as well as the analysis of the title, which might correspond to the body of the text.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Linguistic tricks. Poetic function

In literature, it is not uncommon to use language to call attention towards itself (figures of speech), and to how things are being said. The writer has to catch the attention of the reader, and to use proper devices for this goal.
When language is being used to create beauty, to call attention towards itself, the poetic function is at work. The important thing is not so much what is being said but how it is being said. The writer intends to arouse certain sensations on the reader, of beauty, creativity, and originality, through the form of his or her message. Every expressive resource is valid. This function appears on colloquial language as well; everyone selects consciously or unconsciously the words, voice inflexions, and the types of sentences to use when building an efficient message for what one tries to communicate.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Keywords for analyzing literary language and expression

1. Used to arouse emotions (sentimental) = hyperbole, prosopopeia (personification), apostrophe
2. Used to develop an idea (logical) = similes, antithesis, paradox, synthesis, gradation
3. Used to express an idea in an indirect manner (oblique, reformulated) = paraphrase, circumlocution
4. Used for emphatic purposes = epithete (usually an adjective)
5. Used to give greater dynamism = asyndeton (skipping conjunctions),
polysyndeton (using more conjunctions than necessary)
6. Used to avoid repetition = anaphora (the repetition of a concept without repeating the same word, generally by replacing a noun with a pronoun or with another noun with similar meaning)
7.Used to decrease the dynamic = polysyndeton (using more conjunctions than necessary)
8. alliteration = repetition of an initial sound in different words on the same line or on adjacent lines (e.g.: cooking cupcakes in the kitchen)
9. onomatopoeia  = immitating sounds instead of using words, especially when trying to render sounds made by animals, or sounds of the nature (blowing wind – swoosh!, pouring raindrops – tip! tip! etc.)
10. hyperbaton = reverse syntax (e.g.: saying “Reveal the truth I must”, instead of the normal syntax “I must reveal the truth”.)
11. metonymy = using a certain word as a substitute for another one with which it has a relation of causality
12.  synecdoque = using a word as a substitute for another, namingly using the whole to refer to a part
13. metaphore = identification of an object with another one that it is similar with, or with which it is compared indirectly
14. allegory = continuous metaphor
15. parable = educational narration
16. symbol = representation of an abstract concept by using a concrete one.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Literary text as an act of communication

Literary texts work as an act of communication that features the following characteristics:
It’s the result of the author’s creation, who wants it to last and preserve the exact same original form.
The communication that the literary work establishes with the reader is unilateral. The reader doesn’t establish a direct relation with the author, only with the message, with the author’s work (differed communication). At the same time, this happens only when the reader actively wants it to. The initiative to communicate corresponds to the reader.
The work is not aimed at a particular person, but at many or a few unknown people, contemporary or future readers (universal receiver).
Literary communication is uninterested; it doesn’t have an immediate practical objective. On the contrary, it has an aesthetic nature, it tries to produce reactions in one’s spirit caused by beauty. Regardless, it’s equally true that some authors sometimes write in favor of a specific cause, in order to promote changes in society or to condemn certain situations.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Keywords to be used when describing the structure and versification: part 2

17. minor art verse (2-8) = short lines of two to eight syllables each
18. major art verse (9+) = lines that are longer than nine syllables
19. trios, quartets = stanzas consisting of three, respectively four lines
20. cinquain = stanzas in which the lines rhyme following the pattern ABABB
21. sonnet = a poem consisting of four stanzas – two quartets, two trios – whose rhyme follow the pattern ABBA, ABBA, CDC, DCD (Shakespeare’s sonnet’s are the most famous in this category)
22. ballad = a popular story in lyrics, narrated in short stanzas
23. syllables, verses, stanzas, poems = the four basic units in poetry: poems are made of stanzas, stanzas are made of verses (or lines), and verses are made of syllables
24. free verse = a type of poem that has neither rhyme nor rhythm
25. blank verse = verses that follow rhythm, but do not rhyme (most commonly used in iambic pentameters)
26. types of words = parts of speech (noun, verb, adjective, etc.)
27. punctuation marks = marks used in poetry, as well as in prose, for syntactic and semantic purposes – showing that a message has ended, emphasizing a question, an order, a pause, etc – but also for artistic reasons: the use of elipses (“...”) can imply thoughtfullness or doubt, a dash (“-“) can signal a change of thought etc.
28. repetition = a word that appears multiple times in a line or stanza

Keywords to be used when describing the structure and versification:

1. syllabic count = number of syllables
2. rhythm = the position of the accent or stress, generally on the penultimate (next to last) syllable of the verse
3. types of rhyme (necessary for a better precision of the rhythm): assonance, consonance, alternate, enclosed, couplet (clerihew type), monorhyme etc.
4. hemistich = a verse spit in half by a dash (-) signifying a break in speech
5. strophic pause, verbal pause
6. enjambment = a sentence that begins in a verse and continues in the following one(s)
7. types of verse = plain verse, acute verse, grave verse
8. stanza = each separate group of verses in a poem, that generally keep the same structure throughout the poem (in the classical acceptation of the word, a stanza comprised four lines, with steady rhyme and rhythm).
9. synalepha = the process of merging two syllables into one, usually in order to preserve the rhythm
10. syneresis = the proces of contracting two vowels into a diphtong, and, subsequently, merging two syllables into one, to preserve rhythm.
11. dieresis = the opposite of syneresis, it involves splitting a diphtong or vowel into two separate vowels, thus adding a syllable to the line (again, the purpose is to preserve the rhythm)
12. hiatus = the pause between two adjacent vowels going into different syllables
13. heptasyllabical verse (7) = a seven-syllable line
14. hendecasyllable verse (11) = an eleven-syllable line
15. octosyllabical verse (8) = an eight-syllable line
16. alexandrine verse or dodecasyllable verse (12) = a twelve-syllable line (allegedly named after a famous collection of romances in the 12th century, in which the main hero was Alexander the Great)

Analyzing poetry: Advice and keywords for writing a better essay

1. Always give a title to your essay; underline it.
2. Read the poem carefully, in order to identify: the theme, the narrative voice, the receiver, the message, the tone and the purpose.
3. Underline in the poem: the words, phrases or verses that are significant for identifying the things mentioned above.
4. Identify the literary language and select two of them that are significant for establishing the theme, etc.
5. Observe the structure and find two elements of the structure that emphasize the topic, etc.
6. Don’t talk about everything; be selective, and only choose the things that you can explain well.
7. When giving direct quotes (either words, phrases, verses etc. of the text), you have to use quotation marks (“ “).
8. Try to write a personal conclusion. For example, explain how you or somebody you know would have reacted if put in the situation or atmosphere of the poem.
9. Avoid analyzing bibliographical aspects of the author, unless they are highly relevant for the poem.
10. Do not say that the poem is good or bad, or whether you like it or not.
11. Try to write at least four paragraphs: Introduction, Literary Langugae, Structure, Conclusion.
12. Verbs that you may find useful: establish, formulate, communicate, present, highlight, project, emphasize, repeat, reiterate, insist, conclude, make it clear that…

“Generally, the discourse should consist of three diferent parts:
- the introduction, to adopt a perspective from which you analyze the theme;
- then, the main body, containing a logical, coherent analysis of the poem and the theme, having a certain level of profoundness, with concrete examples that support the ideas being demonstrated or refuted;
- finally, the conclusion, that can present the effect that the message of the poem has on the reader; this can also be applied when analyzing dramatic works, narrations or critical literature.”

Argument and theme

            This involves the first step in getting close to the meaning of the fragment.  Among other strategies, you can use:

      Indicating the fragment’s argument situating it in the general narration of the happenings
      Indicate the theme of the fragment, meaning the significance the author wants to give the work
      Indicate if it is about a theme with more references or topics a) in the literature, b) in a movement or time, and/or c) in the author.  Any reference to other literatures is always welcome but not the fundamental goal of the commentary

            Any commentary should have its own conclusion; it can be done in various ways:
      A reiteration or summary that takes in all the most important aspects of the commentary
      A reaffirmation of a thesis presented throughout the commentary, specifically,in the beginning of it
      The solution to a problem presented throughout the commentary, especially in the beginning
      A personal opinion based on knowledge or sufficient reasons.  It can coincide with a desire or feeling
      A present day example of the topic or its characteristics today or how it has evolved

Two steps for literary commentary

To begin, we can establish a commentary routine that can give you the confidence necessary to follow through with a decision in these types of exercises:

            This is a stage which seems obvious and is, nevertheless, done wrong on occasion.  Sometimes a dictionary is necessary but calm and patience is always necessary.  You can do one comprehensive read through to big and one or more afterward to go through and takes notes and highlight elements you want to pay attention to, what these make you feel, or simply the errors you find in them.  Once you are sure you understood the text, you can go on to the next stage.

            This means situating the work, fragment, author, and pieve before going into the proper commentary.  You need to be careful not to forget any of these substantial aspects in a good localization.  We are facilitating a strict routine which, over time, you can overcome:
      Presenting the fragment
      Situating the work’s fragment
      Situating the work in the author
      Situating the work and the author in its era or an artistic movement
      Literary genre and subgenre of the work which the fragment belongs to with an allusion to its possible origin (it is possible that this aspect may be analyzed later on)


A commentary on a literary text is an exercise that consists in understanding the significance and values of a literary work, meaning that it is about comprehending how an idea or multiple ideas are being expressed.

            Many authors can explain how a literary commentary is written for which they propose following a specific work technique: it is a good way of beginning the role but do not renounce your proper voice, just like in anything, nor should you think that you will find it in the first essays you read.

            We can start by defining what is not a literary commentary:
a)          It is not a commentary on the content where the words of the text are paraphrased over and over
b)         It is not a collection of formal elements put onto a generally meticulous list
c)          It is not an occasion for presenting your knowledge on a topic besides the one at hand

            What elements will enrich your literary commentaries with ease?

a)          Reading about any topic, in any language, at any time or place
b)         Any contact with the other arts: theater, music, fine art
c)          Knowing the history behind the literature
d)         Good linguistic and rhetorical formation (in general, phonics, phonology, semantics, lexicology; and, specifically, poetry, meter, rhetorical figures, etc.)
e)         And over all, a lot of scientific honesty and common sense

Literary language

Literature bears a special relation to reality. Literature is an invention; it is a product of the imagination of the author, a fiction. The writer does not literally copy reality. One cannot say that the world represented in the work or the characters are true or false. Literature speaks of entities that do not require verification outside of the limits of the work itself. Although in a certain sense it can be a copy of reality, before anything else a re-elaboration should not be confused with reality itself. 
Some literary texts distance themselves from reality more clearly than others, like fantasy literature; others are closer to reality, like literary realism. Even in these cases, there is always a manipulation of real information that sets the work apart from historical truth. While this attitude is inadmissible for a historian, it’s more than acceptable for a literary author.
Truth is not the criteria guiding literary creation, credibility is. Every story has to tell things in a coherent and credible way for the world it creates. It’s ruled by its own norms, which is known as internal logic.
All this is transmitted through literary language, which is a standard language used to introduce words that aren’t so common (uncommon voices, learned expressions, foreign words, archaisms, etc.), and that is typically subject to a form. On one side, it has many things in common with educated writing; on the other hand, it usually features some colloquial and even vulgar expressions, intended to cause certain expressive effects.


The most important thing before writing any form of literary analysis is, without a doubt, to properly read the work or book to be analyzed. It could be either a short story or a children's book, a novel or even an essay. Depending on the type of literary work you are analyzing, you have to read according to a different set of guidelines; while the novel is the longest but easiest form to analyze, the essay is the hardest of all.
Once you know the time when the work was written and the audience it was directed to, you have to focus on the influence it might have on the people who receive it. You should try to identify the work's message or moral, as well as the literary language being used by the author, the most frequent expressions, metaphors, literary figures, etc.
The argument can be taken as a summary that clarifies the author's main ideas, and that tells you what the essence of the work is. You can list the main characters in the work and highlight the characteristics that define them, always from the point of view both from the author and from the reader, since they can have different ideas as to why a certain character might be good or bad.
In the end, the goal of a literary analysis is to capture all the characteristics of a literary work, viewed from every possible perspective, and not only from that which corresponds to a specific location or time. This way, anyone can achieve an understanding of the work, even if your culture is very different to the author's, or if you live far in the future from the author's time.
Finally, you can add to your critical analysis your own opinion. You can allow yourself to get carried away, and give any opinion you want. You can express your own ideas, having a clear stand for or against the work. You can say if you liked it or if you hated it, your opinion on the ending, and if you would or wouldn't change anything.