Academic journal article International Journal of Linguistics

How to Apply Critical Linguistics in English/Persian Literary Works' Criticism

Academic journal article International Journal of Linguistics

How to Apply Critical Linguistics in English/Persian Literary Works' Criticism

Article excerpt


Selecting the most appropriate technique of literary criticism as decoding approach of meaning clarification which best match various types of literary pieces has occupied the minds of literary critics in recent decades. Stylistics as an instrument for analyzing literary texts seems to grasp the critics' attentions and has proven itself as a powerful linguistic means of implicature derivation. This article attempted to depict how the knowledge of linguistic intricacies can affect the reader's interpretation and help literary critics illuminate the unexplored literary corners of literary works. Furthermore, it is also claimed that attention to these underlying linguistic intricacies brings about a better understanding for the reader either consciously or unconsciously. Accordingly, three linguistically-inspired approaches (semantic technique linguistic technique and formal technique) for literary analysis are described and focused. Related concepts such as the role of context and literary intuition, "howness" of entering to the text and the boundary of literariness are discussed throughout the paper. Finally, in order to illustrate the fact that these linguistically-inspired techniques are not language or literature dependent, few practical examples of such analyses are presented for English and Persian literary pieces.

Keywords: Stylistic analysis, semantic/linguistic techniques of literary analyses, Literary intuition, Boundary of literariness, Implicature derivation

1. Introduction

The linguist/educationist Widdowson (1975) was, and still is concerned with developing a method of criticism that would be a middle ground between linguistics and literary criticism. The result of this approach was that "stylistic/semantic analysis shades imperceptibly into literary appreciation" (Widdowson, 1975, p. 117). This, for many literary critics at least, was considered unsatisfactory because the dominant paradigm of "scientific/objective linguistics" looked at the language of the text "without troubling about what it is attempting to convey" (Widdowson, 1975, p. 117). When Widdowson (1975) published his analysis of Robert Frost's Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, some critics accused him of not understanding the poem properly. To them it was probably because Widdowson had let his stylistic/semantic analysis lead him away from literary analysis. More importantly, they suggested that semantic/linguistic analysis had lured Widdowson into treating poetry as if it were ordinary prose. This, for many intrinsic critics, was the major heresy of applied linguistics and methodist criticism. Non-literary discourse can be paraphrased, they argued. Literature cannot.

Widdowson is firmly in the tradition of Empson (1951) in allowing his intuitions full rein, and his analysis, which was designed to "give a definite shape to my own intuitive sense of what the poem is about." (Widdowson, 1975, p. 121), made it perfectly clear that he did not believe that either linguistics or literary criticism could make definitive statements about the single meaning of a text:

I do not think that.. .there is any sure procedure of evaluating interpretations in terms of their relative 'correctness'... There seems to be no way of deciding impartially on the evidence of the poem itself whether 'Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening' is about just some human sleep with its release from responsibility or the last long winter sleep when the moment of peace extends forever, (pp. 123-124)

Importantly, Widdowson argued that the poem elicits various responses, and the analysis of language, style, and lexicon of the text serves to enable a student/critic to articulate a personal response "the meaning of a literary work, intrinsic as it is to the unique use of language, can only be recognized by the individual because once it is expressed in different terms so as to be communicated to others it must inevitably change." (Widdowson, 1975, p. …

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