For passion or profession, for hobby or obligation, for delight or duty, for this reason or another, one takes his pen and devotes few minutes he steals from time to trace expressive words on paper. I am among many, in ruptures about literature and this study day comes as a golden opportunity to show how much my fancy is caught and how far my love is increased when the heart excitingly beats and the feeling increasingly grow, to ask the self to enjoy a travel by means of distinct words along the path of different ideas for the sake of a visit to some parts of poetical world.
Two enquiries draw our attention: which approach to adopt to clear up an idea in mind about this or that line from a poem mostly sounding melodious nevertheless its grasping is a difficult experience that represents a real challenge for most of us?, the second is that criticism with all its schools and theories is a helpful tool to manage in a way or another interpretation and then appreciation of the piece of poetry; but does it with all its complexities dull the meaning, and obstruct any attempt to get it.
If so, it gives a tedious attempt to elucidate clumsy verses and anything that is unclear is involuntarily unlovable and of course unrewarding. 2- Poetry and Criticism It is almost admitted that the poem is an elevated thought expressed in a beautiful way to rouse the emotion and mind of the reader, listener or the poet himself.
However it is not usually easy to define a poem if you link any perception of it to Criticism Traditionalists for example do not recognize the talent of any poet unless he can have the capacity to visualize any particularity as universal, any specific to more general and any momentary to eternal; besides he has to have the art to transmit the message of his poem intelligibly to others arousing by that their emotions and stirring up their minds.
Joseph Conrad once said that his task through the power of the written word is “to make you hear, to make you feel, it is above all to make you see” (Christopher Gillie: 38) William Wordsworth from his part insists in preface of Lyrical Ballads on poets to visualize life more than critics because “it is the honourable characteristic of Poetry that its materials are to be found in every subject which can interest the human mind. The evidence of his fact is to be sought, not in the writings of Critics, but in those of Poets themselves”.
On the other hand, Mathews Arnold disagrees with Wordsworth in the Function of Criticism at the Present Time (1865) when he says “almost the last thing for which one would come to English literature is just that very thing which now Europe most desires—criticism” The approach in this school focuses mostly on traditional elements such as: diction, sound, imagery, rhetoric, rhythm, genre, stanza, and sentence structure all form organic unity for ,aesthetic purposes and an independent entity sharing relationship with real life and poems may seem transcendental going beyond any expectations.
Furthermore this approach insists that poetry is an aesthetic representation of life according to social needs because it is not a private pleasure since it induces in us a response up to the circumstances of the world Modernists rather exclude poetry from being a representation of reality and that is out of social purpose and then detached from historical context because poems are only fiction and uncommon to what is exact and sensible.
Henceforward, modernism did not develop traditional poetry but was instead characterized by a deviation from the norms, a rejection of the past, an anti realism using myth, a rejection of conventional plot and a support to individualism and intellectualism, and so writing poetry is cerebral than emotional and it is a work that is open ended and searches to pose questions rather than answering them. All of E.Pound: Hugh Selwyn Mauberly and T.S.Eliot: the waste Land, and W.Stevens:
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Bird are good examples of these characteristics. Post modernists from their part gives great importance to the reader response and only for him can the final say of interpretation be referred, Walter Slatoff in his book “with respect to readers” thinks that no one can deny the effective existence of reader and reading even those who insist on the autonomy of the literary work. (R.Wellek/A.Warren:145).
Some views insist on good reading as a quality that “ has nothing necessarily to do with something one writes or says or anything else one does apart from reading” (G.Strickland:6) Post modernists also claim that poems are complex but they create a pattern out of that chaos, that they are trivial and disheartening but clever pieces and original.
Schools of Criticism
They are cited as follows
✓ Traditional: it gives information about the writer and his time in order to broaden understanding and meaning. ✓ New Criticism: it highlights the lyric, it detaches the poem from biography or history and directly moves to analysis of diction, imagery, meaning of unfamiliar words ✓ Rhetorical: it focuses the art of persuasion through different arguments, truth evidence.
In order to understand the content with great appeal to the reader ✓ Stylistic: great importance is given to the peculiarities of diction and imagery ✓ Metaphorical: a deeper interest to metaphor as part of meaning ✓ Structuralist: clarity is drawn from sociology and anthropology that represent important factors in a given society ✓ Post structuralist: evading organic unity and interdependence ✓ Myth theory: it derives from Northrop Frye placing the poem to categories and sub categories up to the hero’s myth, fall, and enemies ✓ Freudian: a sexual imagery is concerned, struggle for the superego.
Oedipus complex ✓ Jungian: recurring poetic images, symbols and imagery as related to patterns from life ✓ Historical: historical context and data are concerned ✓ Biographical: the writer’s psychology and biographic data are concerned ✓ Sociological: include society and social factors in a poem ✓ Political: the different political movements the poet supports ✓ Marxist: a political correctness .i.e. to assess the poem according to the support for workers against capitalist’s exploitation ✓ Moralist: to assess the poem according to religious convictions, tolerance and social justice ✓ Cognitive scientific: relate poems to brain functioning, but it’s an approach that is still in its infancy.
4- Practical Analysis to Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind and Keats’s Ode to a Nightingale in fact in spite of all the complexities of criticism it opens doors to suspect different levels of meaning and significance and if we arte drifted towards confusion out of the many schools of criticism we are as well lucky to have them but selection of which approach to adopt should be made precise and practical and out of my experience in teaching poetry and sometimes writing it.
I infer that being eclectic is is the best approach that may serve in a good way analysis of poems by incorporating several approaches in one article to better approach the poem for the sake of evidence, that can never be easy without truth evidence transmitted in a beautiful performance
1- Matthew Arnold. The Function of Criticism at the Present Time, Essays in Criticism. London and Cambridge: Macmillan and Co., 1865. Pp. 1-41. 2- C.Gillie. Movements in English Literature 1900-1940, Great Britain: CUP, 1978 3- G.Strickland, Structuralism or criticism, New York: CUP 1985 4- R.Wellek/A.Warren, Theory of Literature, Great Britain, 1978. 5- William Wordsworth, Lyrical Ballads, with a Few Other Poems. London: Printed for J. and A. Arch, 1798. Web Library.
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