Language, Literature, and Critical Practice: Ways of Analysing Text

By David Birch | Go to book overview

4

Reading texts closely: language, style and the 'buried life of words'

Reading a poem is like walking on silence-on volcanic silence. We feel the historical ground; the buried life of words. Like fallen gods, like visions of the night, words are erectile. (Hartman, Beyond Formalism: 341-2)


Language-aware analysis

Though he might not have put it quite this way, William Empson's position in Seven Types of Ambiguity (1930) and The Complex Structure of Words (1951a), suggests that as readers we are able to engage with choices of meaning in a text, recognition of which comes from our linguistic and literary competences. Such engagement requires a skill with understanding grammatical structures, a skill with words, a skill with literary effects, a skill with meanings, and a skill with language analysis. And whilst such skills may not account for 'total' meaning in a text (a requirement of other critics), for Empson they go a long way towards explaining why a reader reacts in a particular way to a text. More significantly, perhaps, such skills give readers a vocabulary in which to discuss their intuitions about a text-something that became increasingly important for Empson in the wake of his objections to most of the new critical practice examined in the previous chapter.

This approach requires skill and training, a knowledge of linguistic and literary structures, and a recognition, above all, of the crucial importance of language in literary texts.

An illustration of a simple analysis that recognizes this importance might be a useful way of introducing this approach. It is a close reading stripped bare, so to speak, and-as a method of close reading-it is often considered a useful, and gentle initiation into textual analysis. N.F. Blake, Professor of English Language at Sheffield University, offered such an approach to a group of students when he lectured in 1983 in South Korea on the language and style of the British poet Philip Larkin. He was

-88-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Language, Literature, and Critical Practice: Ways of Analysing Text
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Series Editor's Introduction to the Interface Series xi
  • Foreword xv
  • Acknowledgements xvi
  • Text Analyses xvii
  • Preface 1
  • 1 - How Texts Mean: Reading as Critical/Political Practice 5
  • 2 - Language, Literature and Scientific Fictions 45
  • 3 - Reading Literary Texts: Traditions, Assumptions, Practices 57
  • 4 - Reading Texts Closely: Language, Style and the 'Buried Life of Words' 88
  • 5 - The Linguistics of Text: Structures and Strictures 117
  • Afterword 167
  • Notes 170
  • Bibliography 176
  • Index 207
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
/ 214

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.