Academic journal article IUP Journal of English Studies

Whitman's "One's Self I Sing": A Linguistic and Stylistic Analysis Based on Formalism

Academic journal article IUP Journal of English Studies

Whitman's "One's Self I Sing": A Linguistic and Stylistic Analysis Based on Formalism

Article excerpt

This paper is a linguistic stylistic analysis of Walt Whitman's lyric, "One's Self I Sing". The study involves an analysis and synthesis that examine how ordinary simple language has been used in the realization of a particular subject matter, quantifying all the linguistic means that coalesced to achieve a special aesthetic purpose. These linguistic features as applied here to Whitman's poem include how, through a network of lexical selection (diction), the tone in the text is revealed; how the stylistically significant phrasal and clausal typology, sentence structures and punctuation patterns have combined to produce the aesthetics of the poem under study. The 'democratic theme' in the poem is brought out with amazing flexibility and dexterity. Additionally, the paper also looks into the aspects of Formalist Criticism and how these aspects help the reader to focus on the form which eventually leads to the content.

All of us here, however, definitely realize that a linguist deaf to the poetic function of language and a literary scholar indifferent to linguistic problems and unconversant with linguistic methods are equally flagrant anachronisms.

- Jakobson, 1960, p. 377


Processing of literary texts is often seen as difficult, but also worth the effort as a potentially rich and engaging source of relevant language data from which to learn. The advocate of stylistics as a means to develop language proficiency is committed to the value of conscious attention to details of linguistic features 'foregrounded' in atext, whether through 'deviance' of some kind, or simply as the consequence of repetitions, parallelism or other such salient patternings seen to contribute significantly to meaning. The metalinguistic reflection and discussion promoted by stylistic approaches in the processing of literary texts especially, poetry, are held to contribute to deeper processing, understanding, memorability and development of the additional language in use. Stylistic approach to literary texts does not only involve linguistic textual analysis but also encourages readers to interact with textual structure to infer meaning (Tuta§, 2006). This paper focuses on the relevance of stylistics approach for the analysis of poems in Teaching English as a Foreign Language context.

Since a poem veils things more than what it reveals, the emphasis on the aesthetics of language and the use of different techniques in poetry such as repetition, meter and rhyme are what commonly distinguish poetry from other literary works. It is this defamiliarizing of language that attracts researchers to investigate it more than any other literary works. The mystery of a poem should be brought out deeply and clearly through its structural and contextual features. To do this, formalist principles are applied to tease out the subtle and implicit meaning and message of a poem. The author has thus, in this study, selected Walt Whitman's poem "One's Self I Sing" as the subject of this study and has chosen the linguistic approach to examine the stylistic features in this poem and also to show that formalist approach is suitable to analyze Whitman's poetry since Whitman the poet was the one who tried to free poetry from its traditional and conventional metrical system and urged the poets to write in a style that was appropriate to their content.

This made Whitman a revolutionary. Even though Whitman used his own free style, yet he adhered to certain standard devices such as assonance, alliteration, repetition, inverse word order, parallelism, and many others. The linguistic structures that he used were different from the conventional style of writing verse. For example, the long unstrained line in its free flow captures the very spirit of democracy and freedom the Whitman championed throughout his life Not physiognomy alone nor brain alone is worthy for the Muse (Raghukul, 2006, p. 144). Such long lines indicated the poet's free line of thought. …

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