Stylistic Analysis

Topics: Linguistics, E. E. Cummings, Poetry Pages: 19 (6049 words) Published: October 14, 2010
Doing Stylistic Analysis
(or four steps to heaven)

Step One: Initial Guidance
If you are offered a choice, DO NOT choose to analyse any text that you really think you don't understand! Go for something you think you can make some sense of, even on an initial reading. Do give the author credit for having thought about the way the text is phrased: assume that it's unlikely that s/he simply stuck something down without thinking, though you may feel (and eventually be able to prove from linguistic evidence) that a particular choice is not working well.

Once you have the text(s) you intend to work on, START THINKING AND NOTE-TAKING AS SOON AS POSSIBLE after finishing this handout, so that if you have a deadline to meet, you don't have to rush at your work at the last minute.

STRUCTURE YOUR WORK, either along lines indicated to you (if any), or in any other way that you prefer. But if you create your own structure, make it explicit by using (sub-)headings. Make sure you cover all the areas you need to. You could also number your own paragraphs and sub-paragraphs, to help you decide if you've got things in the best order, but It's not necessary to retain the numbers once you are satisfied you've finished moving things about.

ALWAYS refer to line or sentence numbers in your chosen text, unless you are referring to longish sections. This avoids confusion and saves time and space. If however you find you have a very large number of such references in a short space, consider rephrasing or referring to longer stretches of the text you are analysing, in order simplify and clarify for the marker.

Follow the normal conventions for general presentation and short quotations as described in 'General Instructions' above. In addition, remember the following layout requirements (which are normal for all academic work) :

INDENT any long quotes from the course reading, with the attribution following aligned to the right-hand margin, and including page numbers: and always leave a one-line space before and after the quotation;

SINGLE INVERTED COMMAS are used for short (one-line or less) quotes, and these are not indented, and can simply follow a colon;

UNDERLINING (or italicisation) is appropriate for single words or short phrases quoted as part of your own sentence.

Step Two: Producing material and planning your work

Allow yourself plenty of time to do the analysing. No matter how long you allow, it will take longer than that!

It's impossible to start writing an analysis immediately you feel you can begin to interpret the text, so don't try it! But DO note down your major reactions and responses to the text as you read, especially any 'impressions' as to what the more subtle meanings are. A record of your initial understanding will be essential later on.

Next, you are going to SKETCH OUT YOUR ROUGH ANALYTICAL NOTES as you analyse. If you do this carefully, it will provide you with much more material than you can possibly use, so that later you can select the most pertinent parts to include in your final write-up.

START METHODICALLY: decide which bits of your text are foregrounded or obviously deviant, and then decide what language levels the foregrounding operates on. This will enable you to decide which language levels to analyse throughout the text in most detail. If nothing seems foregrounded or deviant, look at each language level separately, and collect as much information as you reasonably can.

DO NOT EXCEED about 12-15 sides of double-spaced A4 in all (i.e. including lists, appendices, etc.) for this draft analysis (often referred to in the trade as 'scribble' ! ). More than that and you can be sure you are going into too much detail, getting bogged down, or...

References: Blackmur, R. P. (1954) Language as Gesture: Essays in Poetry. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd.
Cummings, E. E. (1964) 73 Poems. London: Faber and Faber.
Dixit, R. (1977) 'Patterns of Deviation in Selected Poems of E. E. Cummings. ' Unpublished M.A. dissertation. Lancaster University.
Leech, G. N. (1969) A Linguistic Guide to English Poetry. London: Longman.
Short, M. (2000) 'Graphological Deviation, Style Variation and Point of View in Marabou Stork Nightmares by Irvine Welsh. ' Journal of Literary Studies/Tydskrif vir Literatuur Wetenskap 15 (3/4): 305 - 323.
Van Peer, W. (1980) 'The Stylistic Theory of Foregrounding: A Theoretical and Empirical Investigation. ' Unpublished Ph.D. thesis. Lancaster University.
Van Peer, W. (1986) Stylistics and Psychology: Investigations of Foregrounding. Croom Helm.
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