The word explication takes its form from the verb explicate, meaning to “unfold” the meaning of an ideas as to make clear the significance of it. Literary criticism also makes use of explication, which is termed as explication de texte. The meaning of a certain text (whether a poem, novel or play) is unfolded by line-by-line or chapter-by-chapter commentary of the text. This thorough interpretation of the text makes the understanding of it as subjective as possible.
Analysis, on the other hand, is the process of fragmenting an intricate idea into smaller more cognizant parts to gain a better understanding of the idea. The difference between analysis and explication is on where the probe of the idea starts. In explication, the parts are studied to gain an understanding of the entirety of the idea; whereas in analysis, the whole of the idea is probed and divided into more understandable parts.
In writing about a poem, it is best to use explication de texte because the meaning of the totality of the text lies in the interpretation of each line of the poem. Only then if each one of the line is scrutinized will the meaning of the poem will be understood.
Contrariwise, in writing about a short story, it is better to utilize analysis. There is a certain unfolding of events that happen within the text and would only culminate towards the ending. Therefore, the entirety of the text should be first read, only then could the small details of the story could be further scrutinized to gain a fresher and more detailed understanding of the story as a whole.
It is important to know which type of literary tool should be used to explore a certain text. A different interpretation may be concluded depending on whether explication or analysis is used.
Franklin, P. (2006). Conjectures on Explication. US: Chicago Press.
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