Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

Plotting the Lyric: Forms of Narration in poetry/Die Liriese Intrige: Manifestasies Van Narratiwiteit in Die Poesie

Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

Plotting the Lyric: Forms of Narration in poetry/Die Liriese Intrige: Manifestasies Van Narratiwiteit in Die Poesie

Article excerpt


This article is based on the assumption that lyric poems generally share the fundamental constituents of story and discourse as well as the narrative act with narrative fiction in that they likewise feature a sequence of incidents (usually of a mental kind), mediate and shape it from a specific perspective and present it front a particular point of time vis-a-vis the sequence of incidents. A general outline of the narratological categories which may be applied to poetry analysis is given using William Wordsworth's "I wandered lonely as a cloud" as an illustrative example. The aim of the article is heuristic: the intention is not to blur the distinction between fiction and poetry and treat poems indiscriminately as narrative texts, but rather identify and highlight the specifically poetic forms and functions which instances of narrating adopt in poems. The main section of the article will then focus on the first of the three aspects mentioned, the modelling of poetic sequentiality, i.e. the specification of types of plot, plotting and presentation of plot in poetry and the analysis of their functions.


Hierdie artikel is gebaseer op die aanname dat liriese gedigte en verhalende tekste die fundamentele samestellende elemente van storie en verhaal, asook die vertelhandeling in gemeen het. Die rede hiervoor is dat albei soorte tekste bestaan uit 'n reeks gebeurtenisse (meestal van 'n mentale innerlike aard), wat gemedieer en gestruktureer word vanuit 'n bepaalde perspektief en gerepresenteer word vanuit 'n bepaalde moment in tyd teenoor die reeks gebeurtenisse as sodanig. 'n Oorsig van die narratologiese kategoriee wat toegepas kan word in die analise van die poesie word verskaf. "I wandered lonely as a cloud" van William Wordsworth word as voorbeeld gebruik. Die doel van die artikel is heuristies. Die intensie is nie om die onderskeid tusssen verhaal en gedig te vertroebel nie en ook nie om gedigte op onoordeelkundige wyse as verhalende tekste te behandel nie. Die doel is eerder om die spesifiek poetiese vorms en funksies wat verhale en vertelling in gedig kan aanneem, te identifiseer en te beklemtoon. In die sentrale gedeelte van die artikel sal gefokus word op die drie reeds genoemde aspekte van narratiwiteit in gedigte, naamlik die strukturering van poetiese opeenvolging (d.w.s. die spesifisering van bepaalde soorte "plot"), die verhaalmatige omvorming van die storiegegewens en die representasie van die verhaal (d.w.s. van die estetiese omvormde storiemateriaal) in gedigte en die analise van die funksies van hierdie drie aspekte in die poesie.

I. Mapping narratology onto poetry

The theoretical foundations of poetry criticism are increasingly being deplored as deficient. On the one hand, attempts at a conclusive definition of poetry as a genre after the model of narrative fiction or drama have failed (cf. Warning, 1997:17 fr.). On the other hand, the analytical categories and procedures of poetry interpretation have been criticised as largely intuitive, eclectic and lacking systematic organisation. As has recently been suggested (cf. Muller-Zettelmann, 2000; 2002; Huhn, 2002; Huhn & Schonert, 2002), this unsatisfactory state of poetry criticism may be remedied by drawing on the theoretical and methodological achievements of narratology as the elaborate theory and analytic methodology of narrativity. This is arguably the most complex and universal verbal (and, moreover, generally semiotic) mode of structuring, interpreting and representing experience and making sense of the world (Bruner, 1990; Fludernik, 1996; Wolf, 2002). This most complex mode of communication may be mapped onto the traditional genres as a means of specifically highlighting their distinctive features. As for poetry, such a transgeneric recourse to narratology is apt to demonstrate that narrative texts and lyric poems, inspite of their apparent differences in form, technique and function, share essential constituents and that narratological categories can, therefore, profitably be applied to poetry in the expectation that the more comprehensive scope and highly developed status of narratology as well as the discriminatory capacity of narratological terminology will both offer a fresh impetus to the theory of poetry and suggest new practical methods for the analysis of poems. …

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