Showing posts with label Literary Criticism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Literary Criticism. Show all posts

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Jonathan Culler’s Theory of the Lyric: A Short Summary

Jonathan Culler’s Theory of the Lyric, which investigates the western lyric tradition as a whole- “from From the Greeks to the moderns”(vii), seems to be occasioned by his dissatisfaction with the current definition of lyric poetry, which he expresses at the start of the introduction: “Lyric poetry has a long history in the West but an uncertain generic status” (1). He thinks that the current study and position of lyric poetry both inside and outside the classroom has deteriorated. To him once the lyric was central to the literary study, which “has been eclipsed by the novel, perhaps in part because we lack an adequate theory of the lyric” (2). Moreover, he thinks that the current theories of lyric poetry give false models to students and encourage them to “think about lyrics in ways that neglect some of the central features of lyric poetry, both present and past” (3). With this back in his mind, Jonathan Culler has tried to theorize lyric poetry in the subsequent chapters. 

Chapter Three (Theories of Lyrics), which traces some dominant western theories of lyrics, questions the paradoxical nature of the western theory of lyrics. In a sense, this chapter also questions Jonathan Culler’s own theory of lyric that lyric is not an imitation. Drawing the references from Aristotle, Culler says that lyric is not imitative poetry because unlike narrative poetry it does not imitate human events. Culler finds a similar voice in the Hegelian theory of lyrics, “lyric is the subjective genre of poetry, as opposed to epic, which is objective, and drama, which is mixed” (92). But Hegel’s own idealistic interpretation of lyrics as well as the popular western pedagogical techniques of teaching lyric poetry contradict the view that lyrics are absolutely subjective poems, because if we accept that the speaker in a lyric poem “is a persona, then interpretation of the poem becomes a matter of reconstructing the characteristics of this persona, especially the motives and circumstances of this act of speech—as if the speaker were a character in a novel” (109). Analysis of Austin’s performative theory is another important discussion of this chapter. I think what Culler says about the illocutionary and perlocutionary nature of poetry that “the most important acts a poem performs are likely to be those not entailed by it” (130) is truly the essence of all lyric poems.

Chapter Five (Lyric Address), which is a kind of the extension of Culler’s 1975 essay on “Apostrophe”, analyzes the varieties of lyric addresses. I have found his theory of “triangulated address” (186) very interesting from a pedagogically perspective. He argues that the use of apostrophes, which directly address another while indirectly addressing the reader help give the poem its feeling of eventfulness. To him, the less ordinary the addressee, “the more the poem seems to become a ritualistic invocation” in which the reader participates (188). To discuss the pedagogical values of Culler’s chapters, I think the subjective-objective debate and the triangulated address are my two key takeaways from this week’s selections. I could personally relate these two things to my teaching of poetry in the classroom.

Bongenback’s “The Resistance to Poetry”: A Short Summary

Bongenback’s position, that what makes poets and poetry so powerful as well as entertaining is the way in which they resist themselves from power, meaning, relevance, wisdom, etc., is the compelling paradox the chapter “The Resistance to Poetry” seems to be built on. To support his case, Bongenback has drawn so many examples from the ancient Graeco-Roman to the present ages. Yeats’ advice to Pound, “Do not be elected to the Senate of your country,” (1) for example, is emblematic of how poets resist themselves from powerful social and political positions and want to remain in the margin, outside of the power. To Bongenback, however, “the marginality of poetry is in many ways the sources of its power” (1). Poems inspire our trust by not asking them “to be trusted” (1). They resist truth because they contain the language of self-questioning and metaphors that go against themselves and create disjunction (1-2). This could also be a key function of poetry, because “a poem’s obfuscation of the established terms of accountability might be the poem’s most accountable act” (1-2).


Bongenback seems to be searching for the things that inspire poets to write their poetry. Considering a wide array of poets, from Callimachus to Dickinson, what he finds is that most often these poets have resisted the temptation of being popular, and even explicitly relevant to their time and society. They consciously chose a secluded life and the assumption that poetry is irrelevant sometimes acted as a “liberating” (6) force for them. But at the end of the day, this resistance to being relevant has made them so relevant and entertaining to read. Finally, it can be said that poets’ self-resistance is the source of the reader's pleasure. In terms of the pedagogical value, Bongenback’s “The Resistance to Poetry” can open a wide range of implications for understanding and teaching poetry in general. One thing that strikes me is the chapter’s relevance to resistance poetry. Resistance poetry is a popular poetic genre around the world. It seems that most of the resistance poetry in one way or other is inspired by what Bongenback says in “The Resistance to Poetry”.

Rita Felski’s Uses of Literature: A Short Summary

Rita Felski’s Uses of Literature suggests the ways literature can be fruitfully read and enjoyed both inside and outside the literature classroom. The opening of Felski’s Uses of Literature resonates much of what Elaine Showalter and Bruns have said in their Teaching Literature and Why Literature? respectively to justify the existence of literature as a discipline. When the natural and social sciences enjoy a sort of monopoly on knowledge, “how do scholars of literature make a case for the value of what we do?, Felski asks. What follows next in the introduction is a quest for the answer to this question. Felski does not quickly jump in to blame anyone “for its (literature) own state of malaise” (2). She politely disagrees with those who say that ‘The rise of theory led to the death of literature, as works of art were buried under an avalanche of sociological sermons and portentous French prose” (2). But at the same time, she cannot accept the too much socio-centric and theoretical turn in literary scholarship. “Critical reading”, which she calls “the holy grail of literary studies” (3) has been overlooked by the literary theory that “has taught us that attending to the work itself is not a critical preference but a practical impossibility, that reading relies on a complex weave of presuppositions, expectations, and unconscious pre-judgments, that meaning and value are always assigned by someone, somewhere” (3). This deterministic attitude of literary theory has in fact made literature subordinary and now “the literary text is hauled in to confirm what the critic already knows, to illustrate what has been adjudicated in other arenas” (8). Moreover, most readers including the students of literature “have no interest in the fine points of literary history” (11) and “are still expected to find their own way into a literary work, not to parrot the interpretations of others” (11). All these seem to Felski’s spirited defence of the critical reading.

Felski argues for the readers’ engagement with ordinary motives of reading, which she explains drawing a parallel between phenomenology and engaged reading (17). Felski’s new-phenomenological approach to text consists of four modes of textual engagement: recognition, enchantment, knowledge and shock. Towards the close of the introduction, Felski calls for a compromise between the literary theory and critical reading saying that “there is no reason why our readings cannot blend analysis and attachment, criticism and love” (23). Thus, she has taken a middle course that combines “a willingness to suspect with an eagerness to listen” (22). I think Felski has not spoken specifically about anything for poetry. But she has mentioned poetry in many a place to talk about literature in general.

Terry Eagleton’s How to Read a Poem: A Short Summary

If anyone judges Terry Eagleton’s How to Read a Poem by its cover, they are sure to fall into a trap by thinking the book yet another how-to pedagogical manual with an agenda to explicitly teach how to read and teach poetry. However, this observation of mine does not mean that the book is without any pedagogical goals. The book has pedagogical goals, which are, however, presented in a way that differs from the pedagogical goals of teaching poetry we have seen in the selections of the previous weeks. Eagleton’s observations about poetry, which are mostly influenced by his own theory of poetry, are polemical in nature. He starts chapter-2 with a succinct definition of poetry, which he develops throughout the chapter drawing comparisons and contrasts to prose, morality, fiction, and pragmatism. While the chapter has several implicit pedagogical values, my most favourite takeaway pedagogical lesson from this chapter is his assertion not to limit the meanings of poetry that “A poem is a statement released into the public world for us to make of it what we may. It is a piece of writing which could by definition never have just one meaning” (32). I think unlike chapter 2, chapter-5 has more explicit pedagogical goals. Here Eagleton develops his observations and suggestions through dialogues and questions, which are very much instructional in tone. I agree with what Sam has said in his discussion that Eagleton has taken a middle course between extremes of purely subjective and objective approaches to poetry.

Terry Eagleton has not said anything explicitly as to how to teach poetry or how to discuss the observations he has shared about poetry in a poetry class. However, the things he has discussed poetry frequently occur in a poetry classroom or poetry workshop. In this case, I find chapter 5 to be more like an instructional guidebook for poetry teachers and students. To discuss the subjective and objective approaches to poetry, he takes an example of the poem Porphyria's Lover" by Robert Browning (103) and also “mood, address, implication, connotation, symbolism, sensibility, rhetorical effect and the like” (105). He also explores the nuances of Tone, Mood and Pitch (114) and shows us how enjambment as a device could be used to pace up verses e.g. Shelly's Ode to the West Wind (119). To sum up, the way Eagleton models the interpretations of the elements of poetry in the contexts of various poems in this chapter sets an example for the poetry teachers and students as to how to read a poem.

Needless to say, Eagleton’s discussions exclusively focus on poetry in these two chapters. What he says about the language and approaches to poetry and also the elements of poetry establishes the idea that poetry is distinctive from of literature and, of course, requires a distinctive pedagogy. The opening of the chapter-2, “A poem is a fictional, verbally inventive moral statement in which it is the author, rather than the printer or word processor, who decides where the lines should end” (25) clearly sets the stage for exclusive discussion poetry in this and also following chapters. His blunt and bold opening gives the message that the language of poetry is not special, rather poetry makes the language special. 

Bruns' Why Literature? A Short Summary

The subtitle of the book, “The Value of Literary Reading and What It Means for Teaching” clearly defines the pedagogical goals Bruns sets in her Why Literature?: how to uphold the value of reading literature while teaching it in the classroom. Much like Elaine Showalter’s Teaching Literature, Bruns’ Why Literature? starts with the common question faced by the teachers and students of literature, what is the justification of studying literature? There are a lot of answers are in the market. However, Bruns is not satisfied with the rationales given by others for reading literature during the recent years. According to her, these rationales have been put forward “without clear-cut notions of why it is worthwhile to read literary texts” (2). She says that even the “teachers of literature lack an adequate conception of the value of literary reading”, which ultimately results in “leaving students little motivation to read literary texts outside of school” (3). So, her main pedagogical goal is to discuss how teachers of literature can overcome the “inadequacies in literature instruction in their own classrooms” (3) by instilling “in students a sense of the value of literature” (4) they read both inside and the outside of their classrooms.

Bruns has a lot of suggestions and recommendations about how to achieve these goals in the literature classrooms. At first, Bruns sees the value of literature in its being of a “transitional object”. She writes: “Literary texts, then, function as ideal transitional objects because they are transactional in nature — between text and reader” (33). The literature teachers can help students experience this transitional potential of texts. In order to do so, teachers must value the personal encounters the students have with the texts they read (9). The students’ personal experiences with the texts are often overlooked and hence they do not bring the “meaningful experiences reading texts or, at least, may prevent them from bringing into their coursework reports of the meaningful reading experiences they've had outside of class” (4). Bruns suggests that teachers should involve students as "co-inquirers," respecting and trusting their readings of texts as valid. She talks about two kinds of approaches that are key to gaining the most out of the reading experiences: immersion and reflection. According to her, these are integrated parts of a whole reading dynamic, without which one can neither enter nor resurface a literary text.

Bruns talks about all forms of literary texts. Here she does not say anything exclusively on the pedagogical techniques of teaching poetry.

Hirsch’s “How to Read a Poem” and Perrine’s “Sound and Sense”: A Comparison

Hirsch’s “How to Read a Poem” and Perrine’s “Sound and Sense”, which are written as “know-how” manuals for reading and enjoying poetry, have both explicit and implicit pedagogical goals. I think not only poetry teachers, students, and aspiring poets but also the general readers of poetry can hugely benefit from these two books for teaching as well us understanding poetry.

To Hirsch, a poem is created, interpreted, and enjoyed in a relationship between the poet, the reader, and the poem. Through the excellent metaphor of “message in a bottle”, Hirsch says that the poets and readers are like “strangers” (3) who communicate “through a text, a body of words” (4) and their “relationship is not “a static entity but as a dynamic unfolding” (5). I think Hirsch’s key pedagogical goal lies in this attitude to poets, poetry, and readers. There is a silent message for the practitioners of poetry, both inside and outside of the classrooms, that a poem, such as a lyric has an enduring appeal because it is read, enjoyed, and deciphered by its readers in different ages and contexts, which give different meanings to it. While teaching poetry, this awareness of the free play of interpretations of poetry will inspire a teacher to invite the students to come forward and participate in the open, multifarious interpretation of a poem. Perrine’s “Sound and Sense” has clearly stated pedagogical goals. The exercise questions he has added after the poems are helpful both for teachers and students in the poetry classroom. But the book also can be self-studied for understanding poetry. Perrine sounds almost similar to Hirsch when he says “They (poets) create significant new experiences for their readers…in which readers can participate and from which they may gain a greater awareness and understanding of their world” (4). Thus, both Hirsch and Perrine focus on the uniqueness of poetry in terms of its relationship to the readers and the language it uses to make meanings. And the way they describe this relationship and also the language of poetry has both explicit and implicit pedagogical lessons for teachers, students and readers of poetry.

Both Hirsch and Perrine suggest some methods for preparing the readers and students for understanding and enjoying poetry. Hirsch does not write anything explicitly on pedagogical methods of poetry. To Hirsch, the reader is the ultimate destination of a poem. But to enjoy a poem, the reader must “crave it” (7) and seek “it out the way hungry people seek food” (7). While teaching poetry, a teacher can work on activating this desire in their students. Moreover, to Hirsch poetry reaches to our innermost self and electrifies our senses by moving “us through the articulations of touch, taste, and scent” (24). I think here lies an implicit message for the teachers of poetry that they not only teach poetry but also work on how to uncover the hidden beauty of a poem. Perrine, on the other hand, suggests some methods for teaching and understanding poetry. He discusses the elements of poetry and also exemplifies the use of these elements in poems followed by exercise questions. These methods can help both teachers and students to be familiar with the content, purpose, and language of poetry in general.

Both Hirsch and Perrine agree on the point that poetry is unique and uses a special kind of language. Though Hirsch does not openly compare poetry with other literary genres, the way he defines poetry makes it a distinctive form of literature that also requires a distinctive pedagogy. Hirsch mostly defines poetry as a soul-making activity, because “it gets so far under the skin, into the skin” (6). Moreover, poetry works on senses and through figurative language like a metaphor. So, teaching poetry requires a special kind of pedagogy that activates spiritual and sensual awareness of reading poetry in readers and introduces them to its special language. To Perrine, poetry is both similar and different from other forms of literature. As a literary piece, poetry is similar to other forms of literature. But what makes poetry distinctive from other forms of literature is its language, because poetry is “the most condensed and concentrated form of literature” (9). Perrine also talks about different poetic devices and techniques which are essential for reading and enjoying poetry.

Elaine Showalter's Teaching Literature: A Short Summary

Elaine Showalter's Teaching Literature: A Short Summary

What should be the primary pedagogical goals of/for the teachers of literature? The question has never been out of scholarly interest since literature was introduced as a subject in universities. The question has become even more important and central to teaching literature since B. S. Bloom introduced the taxonomy of educational objectives in 1956. Now, almost every field of learning faces the common question: What are the goals, objectives, and outcomes of what you are going to teach or learn? In this case, the teaching literature is not an exception. Elaine Showalter has also taken up this question in her Teaching Literature, a book that we can call Showalter’s Taxonomy of teaching literature.

Elaine Showalter has, through examples and anecdotes, tried to address the question in Teaching Literature, especially in Chapter-2: Theories of Teaching Literature. At the beginning of the chapter, she agrees that like the definition of literature, the goals of teaching literature cannot be universally defined: “If we can’t agree on a definition of literature, can we agree on the goals of teaching literary texts? Probably not” (22). To her, the inability to “articulate a shared vision of our goal that that can provide a sense of ongoing purpose and connection” (24) of teaching literature is one of the present anxieties of literature teachers. To ES, the goals of teaching literature have not always been the same. Different ages and movements have set different goals of teaching literature: to make “people better human beings” (22), “to moralize, civilize, and humanize” (22), and “to engage in a significant relationship with others” (23).  According to ES, these goals are still relevant to teaching literature. However, several literary and critical movements have defined the goals of teaching literature differently during the 20th century. New criticism set the goal to isolate “the texts from historical contexts and subjective interpretation” (23), during “the 1960s and 1970s, teaching literature became a political act” (23) and during the 1970s, teaching literature became a branch of philosophical inquiry about signification, representation, aporia, and ideology” (23). According to ES, apart from these explicit goals, the implicit goal that is always relevant is that literature is “important not only in education but in life” (24). On page 26, ES lists 12 explicit goals of teaching literature, which can be summarized in her own language: “Overall, our objective in teaching literature is to train our students to think, read, analyze, and write like literary scholars, to approach literary problems as trained specialists in the field do, to learn a literary methodology, in short to “do” literature as scientists “do” science” (25).

What are the methods by which the author advocates achieving these goalsI think an implicit answer to this question is found in the opening chapter of the book, where ES describes the seven leading anxieties that are commonly experienced by literature teachers. One must overcome these anxieties to become a good literature teacher. However, the explicit answers to the question of how these goals can be achieved are found in Chapter-2. She, at first, says that literature teachers are often baffled when they are “asked to describe our (their) pedagogical theory” (27). Moreover, teachers often are not consistent and conscious about the theory they apply in teaching literature (27). ES has suggested three theories or methods which are again subdivided into several approaches: “subject-centred theories, teacher-centred theories and student-centred theories” (27). Apart from these theories, ES also talks about creating a “personae or the teaching self” (38) in literature classrooms. 

Poetry, as a distinctive piece of literature, requires a special pedagogy, which is not or cannot be used in teaching other forms of literature such as dramas and novels. According to ES, for teaching poetry the instructors need “to combine a range of techniques and methods” 64). Teaching poetry also involves awareness about the audience on the part of the instructors. One must “ask herself about the intended audience of learners- beginners, advanced, majors, graduate students, dabblers, artists, scientists” (64). ES discusses how the three pedagogical approaches she has just mentioned (“subject-centred theories, teacher-centred theories and student-centred theories”) can be tailormade by the instructors to teach poetry well in classrooms. To say in brief, in the subject-centred approach to teaching poetry, the instructors have to decide how to teach “the subjects of poetics, metrics, and prosody” (65). They also should focus on the figurative language, genres and background of the poetry they will teach (66-67). In a teacher-centred approach to teaching poetry, teachers should read the poems aloud, which helps learners engage in the poems more. In a student-centred approach, students should be involved in poetry which is sometimes absent in a teacher-centred approach. In this approach, asking students to memorize poems also can be (a good pedagogical tool” (69). Sometimes, instructors even ask students to compose poems in their poetry courses. Thus, poetry demands a distinctive pedagogical approach to teaching.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Aristotle's Definition of Epic in Poetics and his Consideration of Tragedy as Superior to an Epic

To Aristotle, an Epic is a narrative poem written in heroic hexa-metre. It has four constituent parts namely plot , character, thought, & diction. Aristotle defines every point in much detail & finally, having compared between tragedy & epic, comes to the conclusion that a tragedy is superior to an epic.

According to Aristotle, the plots of epics should be dramatically constructed like those of tragedies. They should centre upon a single action whole & complete & having a beginning, middle & an end. Nor should epics be constructed like the common run of histories. The aim of history is to focus on a single period, while the task of an epic is to focus on a single action that is required. In this respect, Aristotle appreciates the greatness of Homer beyond all other poets. Though the Trojan War had a beginning & a war, Homer didn't attempt to put the whole of it to 'The Iliad'. As whole would have been too vast a theme to be easily embraced by a single view. Homer has selected one part of the story & has introduced mant incidents from other parts as episodes in order to give the poem a touch of variety. Other epic like the authors of 'Cypria' & 'The Little Iliad' have used many separate incident in their works. 

Thus, while only one tragedy could be made out of the 'Iliad' & the ‘Odyssey’. Several might be made out of the 'Cypria' & more than eight out of the 'Little Iliad’. Again epic poetry must divide into the same type as tragedy; it must me simple or complex or ethical or pathetic, & its thoughts & diction should be as artistic as they are in tragedy. The best models,again,supplied by Homer. His 'Iliad' is at once simple & pathetic & ‘Odyssey’, complex & ethical. Moreover,in diction & thought, they surpass all other poems. The epic, like tragedy, requires reversals of the situation, recognition & scenes of suffering.

Epic can be greater in length than tragedy. Unlike tragedy, an epic action should have no limit in time. It is the special advantage of epic that it may be of considerable length. In tragedy, it isn't possible to represent several parts of the story as taking palce simultaneously. Epic poetry, on the contrary, is able to represent several incidents that are taking place simultaneously. And if these incidents are relevant, they increase the gravity of the poems & also relieve the poems of monotony & dullness.

Epic represents the life of an entire period & relates an action concerning the fortunes or destiny of a nation.

The marvellous has a function in epic . The irrational on which the wonderful depends for its chief effects,has a wider scope in epic poetry because there the persons' acting ain't visible. The pursuit of Hector by Achilles in Homer's 'The Ilaid' before the Greeks, standing still & watching the scene with passive interest, would be simply laughable on the stage, whereas in the epic the absurdity passes unnoticed.

In the final chapter of poetics Aristotle raises the question whether the epic or the tragic drama is the higher form of imitation. According to him , the better form of art is less vulgar & the less vulgar is always that which is designed to appeal to the better type of audience . Now it's obvious that the form that appeals everyone is extremely vulgar. Thus epic is said to appeal to cultivated readers who don't need the help of visible forms, while tragedy appeals to meaner minds. If ,then, it is a vulgar art, it is obviously inferior to epic.

But this accusation can be defended by saying that the tragic drama can achieve its end without the help of action. Like epics, the quality of a tragic drama can be staged, while tragic drama can be staged as well as recited. Moreover, the disadvantage that tragic drama appeals to meaner minds can be compensated by the other respects in which tragedy is definitely superior.

The second accusation inherent to tragedy is that when the performers act on the stage ,they sometimes do a great deal of unnecessary movements. The performers can't act the parts of respectable women.

The flute players can't do their job properly. And the older actors always criticize the younger.But this kind of arguing is a criticism of acting, not of poetry , for it is also possible for a bard to exaggerate his gestures while reciting, & for a singer too.

The tragic drama is also superior because it has all the epic elements, while epic doesn't have all the elements of tragedy. Tragic drama may even employ the epic metre ,& it has the additional attraction of music & spectacular effects which are the sources of distinct feeling of pleasure. Then the effect is as vivid when a play is need as when it is acted.

Aristotle is a teleologian, the upholder of the theory that everything has a purpose to fulfill. The purpose of a poetic imitation is to give pleasure. In this respect, tragic drama achieves its ends in shorter compass, and what is more compact gives more pleasure than what is extended over a long period . For example, if the play 'Oedipus Rex' by Sophocles was cast in a form as long as the epic ''The Iliad' , the effect of the play would greatly be diminished. An epic has less unity than a tragedy. An epic can furnish subject for several tragedies & this shows that , then, is less unity in an epic poem.

Concluding his discussion Aristotle says that if tragedy is superior to epic in all these respects , it fulfills its artistic function in achieving its end better than epic. It must be the better form of art & also fulfilling its artistic function then, obviously, in achieving its ends better than epic; it must be the better form.

Aristotle's Theory of Purgation or Cahersis and the Functions of a Tragedy as Given in Poetics

Aristotle believes in teleology, a metaphysical position according to which everything has a  function or end to fulfill. Every kind of poetic imitation has its own assigned function, says Aristotle. The function of a tragedy is to succeed through the representation of an action that is serious, complete and of certain magnitude, in arousing pity and fear in such a way as to accomplish a purgation or Catharsis of such emotions. So tragedy works in a two folds ways   1, first exciting the emotions of fear and pity and  2, then abating them, thereby effecting an emotional cure.

So, Catharsis or purgation, the most debate arousing word in entire Poetics, depends on the emotions coming from the combination of pity and fear. By pity Aristotle means the sympathy we feel for the undeserving sufferer. We pity one who is suffering and to pity we must participate to some extent in his suffering. But we feel pity for one who suffers more than he should. We feel pity for Oedipus, when we see him suffering from undeserved misfortune. We feel pity for Agamemnon hearing his death-cry.    

Agamemnon is not wholly responsible for such kind of suffering. Another essential part of   suffering is fear  which we feel for someone just like ourselves. It is closely connected with pity. We pity others, while we fear for ourselves, if we are placed in these circumstances. We have a sympathetic emotion of fear for one who is similar to us. When we see Oedipus on the stage is suffering from untold sufferings.  We realize our kinship or identity with him. And the effect of tragedy depends on this inward similarity between the hero and the spectator. The hero is as much a human being as any of us. Imaginatively, we feel that we too may meet such a fate, and we recoil. 

According to Aristotle there are two ways in which fear and pity can be aroused in the audience. Fear and pity may be excited in the audience by means spectacle. But they can also take their rise from very structure of the action and this is the bitter way and indicates the superior art. In fact, the plot should be so constructed that even without the use of his eyes, the listener, who hears the late, will be thrill with horror and melt to pity at what happens in the story. This is the impression we should receive from listening to the story of Oedipus. But to produce this effect by means of stage-spectacle is less artistic and those who employ spectacle to produce an effect, not of fear, but of something merely monstrous, are ignorant of the purpose of tragedy. The purpose of tragedy is to give pleasure which comes from pity and fear through imitation.

Fear and pity can also take their rise from the very structure of the plot. And in order to produce such situations the dramatists should choose those horror-deeds that take place between persons who are near and dear to each other. A brother killing or intending to kill a brother, for example- Polyneices killing of Eteodes in Antigone, son killing his father, as Oedipus did, a mother killing her son as Medea did or son killing his mother or any other deeds of same kinds the tragic dramatist must choose. We see that the most of the situations suitable to tragedy are supplied by a number of well- known legends of these well-known families, such as that of Clytemnestra having been killed by Orestes or Eriphyle by Alemaeon.

But the duty of a dramatist is to use these elements effectively. He should use his inventive faculty. Aristotle has suggested four possible ways in which these horror-deeds can be committed.

1) The deed may be done by characters acting consciously and in full knowledge of the facts for example Euripides made Medea kill her children.

2) Or they may do it without realizing the horror of the deeds until later, when they discover the truth, this is what Sophocles did with Oedipus.

3) A third alternative is for someone who is about to do a terrible deed in ignorance of the relationship and to discover the truth before he does it.

4) There is still another way which is least acceptable. In this situation someone in possession of the facts is on the point of acting but fails to do so. Such a situation is shocking without being tragic, because no disaster occurs. Hence nobody is allowed to behave like this, as when Haemon fails to kill Creon in the Antigone.

It is better that the character should act in ignorance and only learn the truth afterwards for there is nothing in this to outrage. Our feelings and the revelation comes as a surprise. However, the best method is one in which the character is about to do an act of ignorance but discovers the truth before he does, when for example in the Cresphontes Merope intends to kill her son, but recognizes him and does not do so, or when the same thing happens with brother and sister in Iphigena in Tauris or when in the Helle, the son recognizes his mother when he is just about to betray her. 

There is a controversy over the fact that which way is the best, the first one or the second one. If we keep in mind the arguments put forward by Aristotle, then it seems to us that the situation in which character does a thing in complete ignorance and later discovers the truth is the best way. But the contradiction arises from the very language Aristotle has used.

Friday, August 16, 2013

What is ‘Objective correlative'?

A term introduced by T.S Eliot in his essay “Hamlet and His Problems” (1919). Eliot observes that there is something in Hamlet which Shakespeare cannot “drag into the light, contemplate, or manipulate into art” , at least not in the same way that he can with Othello's jealousy, or Coriolanus' pride. He goes on to deduce that “the only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an ‘objective correlative'; in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula for that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in a sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked.”

To simplify his words, if writers or poets or playwrights want to create an emotional reaction in the audience, they must find a combination of images, objects, or description evoking the appropriate emotion. The source of the emotional reaction isn't in one particular object, one particular image, or one particular word. Instead, the emotion originates in the combination of these phenomena when they appear together.