Comparism of an everyday text with a literary text Essay
Comparism of an everyday text with a literary text
Choose one every day and one literary text. Using at least two analytical techniques from E301, analyze and compare your two texts in terms of their creativity and literariness, drawing on material from both parts of the module. In this paper I will analyze and compare a literary text and an everyday text, in terms of their creativity and literariness. I chose Philip Larkin’s (1964) poem, ‘Self’s the man’ (see Appendix, Text 1), as the literary text for analysis because it is not only smooth and pleasing to the eye and mind that it seems effortless to read and contain within one’s self but also because it arouses so many emotions which makes it ideal for analysis. In ‘Self’s the man’ Larkin (1964), is being cynical towards relationships and through the satirization of marriage; he contrasts himself with a mythical other, Arnold, with a view of talking about who is more selfish, claiming that married people are as selfish as single ones, that is, for their own comfort as well as fear that they will be left alone for the rest of their lives, people jump into marriage. The everyday text that I have chosen to analyze and compare with the poem, is an advertisement by DEBEERS (see Appendix, Text 2), targeting men, persuading them to buy a diamond ring for their lady, since diamonds, just like marriage, are an investment.
Diamonds are a symbol of eternal love and devotion and men are aware of this symbolism, hence, DE BEERS exploits that in the advertisement by ingraining in the minds of men that if they want to stop ‘a woman getting away’ (Larkin, 1964), they should make their ‘two months’ salary last forever’ (DE BEERS, 2004). Although at first glance the two texts seem completely different, they are seemingly connected by the same theme of ‘relationships’, however, from two different contrasting contexts, with Text 1, being a poem by Philip Larkin (1964), and Text 2, being an advertisement by DE BEERS (2004). In order to evaluate the creativity and literariness of a text, a thorough analysis of the language the writer has used is of supreme importance. However, before analyzing the texts, it is necessary to have a broad interpretation of creativity and literariness. According to Sternberg (1999:3), ‘Creativity is the ability to produce work that is both novel (i.e. Original, unexpected) and appropriate (i.e. Adaptive concerning task constraints).
Furthermore, Swann (2006: 7) asserts that ‘creativity is not restricted to literary texts but is a common aspect of our interactions with others’, which links closely to Papen’s and Tusting’s (2006:315) claim that ‘all meaning making processes have a creative element’. Hence, it can be said that creativity can be found in all literacy practices, in the way that texts are constructed, read and interpreted. Creativity has textual, socio-cultural and cognitive aspects (Carter, 2004) and in this paper both chosen texts will be analyzed in terms of all three. Literariness, on the other hand, is defined by the Russian Formalists as a sum of special linguistic and formal ‘properties that could be located in literary texts’ (Maybin & Pearce, 2006:6). The Formalists elucidate the observable ‘devices’ by which literary texts, especially poems, foreground their own language, in rhyme, and other patterns of sound and repetition. Hence, literariness is to be perceived in terms of defamiliarization, as a series of deviations from ‘ordinary’ language, ‘in which our routine ways of seeing and thinking are disrupted; our perceptions freshened; and our awareness of the world heightened’ (Shklovsky, in Hawks, 1997:62).
Cook (1994) asserts that literariness is based on the notion of schema disruption where the reader’s views and perspectives are challenged in some way. He proposes that literariness results when a text and linguistic deviation cause schema disruption, refreshment or even change, however, whether a text generates schema refreshment ultimately depends on the reader’s desire for it to happen. Therefore, who the reader is, how he approaches and perceives the text with distinct background knowledge and expectations, ultimately determines the literary value of a text. In my analysis, I will first apply Jakobson’s (1960) methodology, stylistics approach and Carter’s (1997) criteria of literariness to the two texts and then contrast them with illustrations in terms of interpretative schemata. My intention in doing so is to highlight some of the strengths and weaknesses of these approaches and also modes in which they interact to better comprehend the nature of creativity and literariness.
On the graphological level, in Text 1, the noticeable attributes are the traditional lineation, stanza divisions of poetry, and the presence of standard punctuation. The poem has 8 stanzas in all and each stanza consists of 4 lines. This creates a set rhythmic pattern, particularly in conjunction with the rhyme scheme. Text 2, on the other hand, on a graphic level, uses full capitalization in order to emphasize every letter in the ad and make it look trim and tidy. The headline uses larger, capital and bold letters to draw readers’ attention and make them curious about what the advertisement mainly has to say, leading them to continue on reading unconsciously by arousing their curiosity and desire to know more about the product and subsequently persuading them to buy it. Moreover, Text 2, illustrates graphological deviation, by using solid background colors, and a brilliant diamond ring to focus all the reader’s attention to. On the phonic level, Text 1 has little irregularity.
The rhyme scheme of the poem is AABB, CCDD, where lines 1 & 2 and 3 & 4, rhyme in every verse with an exception of half-rhyme in the 3rd (supper/paper) and 4th (houses/trousers; mother/summer) stanzas. The use of rhyme creates an ‘end stop’, whereby the reader pauses slightly, emphasizing the words that rhyme. In Jakobson’s methodology (1960), when phonemes rhyme in a text and/or alliteration is present together with other sound effects of verse, ‘it is at once both a deviation from the code and an imposition of order upon it’ (Cook, 1994:396). Presuming that rhyming of phonemes is unique, literary, and an attribute of text, it can be said that, Text 1, is both creative and literary. In Text 2, on the other hand, the nine-word headline also contains linguistic exploitation, in a way that highlights and depicts the message which makes it an interesting Carpe diem poem urging the reader to seize the day by making his two months’ salary last forever.
Although, Text 2 is an advertisement and attention of the reader is traditionally supposed to be on the meaning rather than the sound, it is interesting to see how the headline, ‘HOW CAN YOU MAKE TWO MONTHS’ SALARY LAST FOREVER?’ contains phonological parallelism with an inline-rhyme (You/Two: both words come from a paradigm of one syllable words containing the sound /uː/) which as mentioned above makes it, both, creative and literary. The lexis in Text 1 is ‘ordinary’ rather than ‘poetic’.
Larkin’s (1964) deviation from Standard English by using colloquial lexis: ‘perk’, ‘nippers’, ‘kiddies’ clobber’; interests the reader and familiarizes them with the situation, which is effective in that it is easy to read if one can relate to the poet. Moreover, the constant use of the conjunction ‘and’, in the 2nd, 3rd and 7th stanzas highlights the bare, repetitive and boring lifestyle of Arnold which is reduced to mundane tasks. Text 2, on the other hand, exploits lexical ambiguity at the semantic level. Thus, the slogan “A Diamond Is Forever,” means both that ‘a diamond is a never-ending sign of love’ (that is, the diamond is not merely seen as a rock but rather as a sign of eternal love, hence, the diamond, in Text 2, is made to produce love and comes to mean ‘love’) and that ‘a diamond would always hold its value’.
Additionally, affirmative and commendatory words and phrases (‘perfect’, ‘she’ll cherish’, ‘she’ll love’, ‘surprise her’, ‘diamond experts since 1888’) are widely used in, Text 2, to impress the potential customer of the quality of the diamond ring, to form positive image in their minds, win their trust and arouse their desire to buy it. Moreover, in Text 2, the use of second person addressee “you” tends to shorten the distance between the reader and the advertiser, making the advertisement more like a face-to-face conversation where the advertiser speaks to the readers in a tender tone, making sincere promises and honest recommendations. In so doing, the advertisement moves the reader to action since the reader feels he is being thought of and plays an important role for the manufacturer. Hence, it can be said that, Text 2, has an obvious conative function, since it is supposed to address and influence the reader to buy a product, unlike, Text 1, where the poetic function dominates, making it self-referential (Thornborrow, 2006).
Turning to the grammatical characteristics of the texts, Text 1, just like its lexis, seems pointedly ‘unpoetic’. Apart from Short’s (1996) idea of cohesion which can be identified in the poem since it contains logical and clear links between sentences through the use of words such as ‘and’ (‘And when he finishes supper’), ‘but’ (‘But wait not too fast’) and in form of personal reference, that is, through the use of personal pronouns where Arnold is named at the beginning to introduce him as a topic and then onwards the pronouns ‘he’ and ‘his’ are employed anaphorically for subsequent reference , there are only a few glimpses of patterning or ‘poetic’ syntax.
One grammatical deviance in Text 1 is found in line 18 (‘Makes me feel a swine’), where the writer’s omission of the word ‘like’ draws particular attention to itself by deviating from what is expected. Imagery, a stylistic device, is used in Text 1, in the 3rd and 4th stanzas, where the poet invites the readers to imagine Arnold wheeling the ‘nippers’…round the houses’(L.13) as well as painting the hall ‘in his old trousers’ (L.14) obviously at the command of his wife. Furthermore, the stylistic device, diction, which is the choice of distinct words used in a text to not only communicate meaning but also emotions, is being cleverly used in Text 1. The diction of ‘Self’s the man’ is accurate, vivid, expressive and chosen wisely by the poet. For instance, in the following sentence, ‘She takes as her perk’ (L.6), the ‘speediness’ and ‘brusqueness’ of the verb ‘takes’ insinuates a sense of forced snatching possibly even before Arnold has counted his money. The noun ‘perk’ promotes a negative view of women, suggesting that Arnold’s wife is a gold digger who expects to be paid for being there.
Moreover, Larkin’s use of the colloquial idiom, ‘having a read at…’ instead of ‘read’, insinuates Arnold’s chronic fatigue, robbing him of the power of serious concentration. The phrase ‘Put a screw in this wall’ (L11) highlights how Arnold’s wife has the upper hand in the relationship, that she nags and controls him and ‘He has no time at all’ (L12), for he has given his life to marriage. Through his diction, one can perceive the poet’s sarcastic and cynical tone in Text 1, portraying Arnold as being trapped, unhappy and unfulfilled since he is enslaved, dominated and directed by his wife and children. The last stanza is an indecisive finishing statement that shows that the poet has reached the conclusion that he has a superior strategy in playing the game of life, however, by saying ‘Or – I suppose I can’ in Line 32, he lets the readers interpret and decide for themselves who is more selfish.
On the other hand, the grammatical style marker of significance in, Text 2, is the extensive use of present tense which demonstrates not only the positive features of the diamond ring, satisfying the consumer’s desire to know the present state of the product he wants but also makes the advertisement easier to comprehend without transferring to other tenses. But there is another aspect of the simple present in, Text 2, and that is its implication of universality and timelessness. Moreover, the use of interrogative sentences, in Text 2, such as, ‘How often will you give her something she’ll cherish for the rest of her life?’ and ‘How can you make two months’ salary last forever?’ arouses the reader’s attention since they are, both, captivating and thought provoking.
Carter’s (1997) criteria of literariness, assists in confirming the general opinion that both texts have a relatively high degree of literariness. The first criterion of Carter (1997) which is evident in, Text 1, is medium dependence. ‘Self’s the man’ creates a world of internal reference where the reader’s attention is ultimately ‘drawn into the text itself’ (Maybin & Pearce, 2006:16). Perceptibly, a lack of direct referential communication exists with the reader’s concerns, which results in an ‘enclosing effect’ proposed by Widdowson (1975) as being an attribute of literature. Carter (1997) asserts that such a text, which exclusively depends on itself, throws the reader’s expectations and emotions into turmoil, making them ‘feel insecure thus adding intensity to the meaning of the text’ (Carter, 1997:67).
However, he elucidates that ‘no text can be so entirely autonomous that it refers only to itself nor so rich that a reader’s own experience…cannot extend the world it creates’ (Carter, 1997:82) which relates to Widdowson’s (1975:36) theory that ‘literary interpretation…is not concerned with what the writer meant by the text, but what the text means, or might mean, to the reader’. On the other hand, Text 2, points towards an external, verifiable reality which if required, could be reordered or reformed without altering the meaning. Moreover, Text 2, communicates with the reader in such a way that he/she is bound by cooperative conditions of conventional communication. It also relies on another medium, the employment of an image, to assist in reinforcing the promotional and persuasive effect, which when combined, shows aspects of literary creativity.
The next criterion proposed by Carter (1997), genre mixing, is a type of deviation which demonstrates how all language can be employed to generate a literary effect by this process. Text 1 shows examples of deviation at the level of words and meaning as it includes colloquial words and phrases which stand out from the surrounding text (perk’, ‘nippers’, ‘kiddies’ clobber’, ‘having a read at’) while Text 2, exploits the language typically associated with advertising which could be subtly redeployed for literary purposes. Text 2, also employs graphological deviation, through the use of different layout, size and typeface. Polysemy, the use of words or phrases that have more than one meaning, is another criterion of Carter’s (1997) which can be seen in the following sentence in Text 2: ‘A Diamond is Forever’. These words as mentioned earlier carry the meaning that ‘a diamond is a symbol of eternal love’ and that ‘a diamond would always remain valuable’.
Moreover, the headline in Text 2, ‘How can you make two months’ salary last forever?’ is also polysemous, telling men that ‘they should invest their two months’ salary in buying a diamond ring for their lady which will make their love last forever’ and that ‘since diamonds are rare, a symbol of success and the most valuable possession, its value will only increase with time’, hence they are an ideal investment for their money. Carter’s (1997) criterion of text patterning expatiates on Jakobson’s (1960) concept of parallelism, nevertheless, on a much broader textual scale. Texts get their meaning from their context and what meaning the writer desires to establish depends to a larger extent on the reader. By looking at the structure of Text 1 and the way it is presented, one can say that it was written for no distinct purpose other than to entertain, whereas, Text 1 has a definite pragmatic function, for it is written for a particular purpose which is to inform and persuade the reader to buy a diamond ring.
So far, I have followed Jakobson (1960), Carter (1997) and the stylistics point of view, to analyze the formal features of the texts. However, in order for a text to serve as a coherent communicative act, certain schemata of the reader must be activated to make sense of what they read by applying the text to significant and authentic experiences. Text 1, activates the reader’s ‘married life’, ‘single life’ and ‘selfishness VS selflessness’ schema and as a result, judgments are made which go beyond the text. In Text 1, I interpret the relevant reader (depending on the reader) schemata to be as follows: Script: selfishness VS unselfishness of married and single people Script: marriage is an act of selflessness
Script: married life has the bliss of being a husband and father Script: single people are inferior to married people
Script: stay single since marriage is a form of entrapment
Script: married people are as selfish as singles
In Text 2, I interpret the relevant reader schemata (depending on the reader) as follows: Script: buy a diamond ring
Plan: give a diamond ring
Plan: show love and devotion
Plan: impress the woman
Goal: marry the woman
Script: buy a diamond ring
Goal: perfect investment for money since a diamond’s worth will increase with time No obvious mention of these schemata was made by the writers of the texts and I have only come to these cognitive conclusions with my own cultural background influencing my intuition. It can be said that, Text 1, ultimately results in schema reinforcement since it corroborates the stereotypical presumptions about people and the world. Text 2, also results in schema reinforcement since the advertisers assume that readers share and recognize their plans and are persuadable to the recommendation and will purchase a diamond ring. The analyses manifest how Jakobson’s and Carter’s methodology operates only at the linguistic level and not at the schematic and discoursal level. The literariness of both texts cannot be represented in simple Stylistics, Carter’s or Jakobson’s approach. Only with reference to the reader’s distinct schemata, can one argue for their literariness or lack of it.
In conclusion, the analyses demonstrate the weaknesses of Stylistics, Jakobson’s and Carter’s inherency approach in isolation, highlighting the importance of the reader’s unique interpretative schemata. However, one should not cast aside Jakobson’s, Stylistics and inherency approach but rather supplement them with the pivotal role of the reader. The significance of a reader to determine the literariness of a text was neglected by Jakobson, although, interestingly, his philosophy strongly insinuates the presence of the reader. In order for a text to have a poetic function, it has to have an effect on the person reading the text, which is, the reader. Stylistics and Carter’s inherency focus, on the other hand, are only beneficial in showing that ‘there are no sharp cut-offs between literary and non-literary texts and that prototypical literary texts, even if not poems, contain poetic elements’ (Thornborrow, 2006:65).
Hence, Text 1, with its few glimpses of linguistic patterning and deviation, may still be regarded as literary by many readers, whereas, Text 2, with its density of patterning and deviation will hardly be regarded as being literary only because it is classified as an advertisement. This, however, depends upon individual readers since point of views and approaches present in the texts will arouse particular judgments in particular readers. These judgments will differ according to the schemata of the reader, and the extent to which their valued expectations and emotions are thrown into turmoil. Moreover, it can be said that both texts are wide open to recategorization as readers change for different readers will categorize a text differently.
Carter, R (1997) in Goodman, S & O’Halloran, K. (2006) The art of English: Literary creativity, Open University, Milton Keynes, pp. 60-89 Carter, R (2004) Language and Creativity: The Art of Common Talk, London, Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, pp. 1-226. Cook, D. (1994) in in Goodman, S & O’Halloran, K. (2006) The art of English: Literary creativity, Open University, Milton Keynes, pp. 37-43, 396-413 DeBeers, (2004) ‘How Can You Make Two Months Salary Last Forever’, [online], http://lessisabore.com/main_files/writing/04_diamond.html (Accessed on 2 April 2012) Grice, P. (1975) in Goodman, S & O’Halloran, K. (2006) The art of English: Literary creativity, Open University, Milton Keynes Jakobson (1960) in Goodman, S & O’Halloran, K. (2006) The art of English: Literary creativity, Open University, Milton Keynes, pp. 6-24, 49-74 Larkin, P (1964), The Whitsun Weddings, Faber & Faber Ltd, London, UK, p. 26 Maybin, J. & Pearce, M. (2006) in Goodman, S & O’Halloran, K. (2006) The art of English: Literary creativity, Open University, Milton Keynes, p.6 Papen, U. & Tusting, K. (2006), in Maybin, J & Swann, J. (2006) The art of English: everyday creativity, Open University, Milton Keynes, pp. 312-331 Short, M. (1996) Exploring the Language of Poems, Plays and Prose, Addison Wesley Longman Ltd., Essex, UK Sternberg, R.J. (1999) in Carter, R. (2004) Language and Creativity: The Art of Common Talk, London, Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, p.47 Thornborrow, J. (2006) in Goodman, S & O’Halloran, K. (2006) The art of English: Literary creativity, Open University, Milton Keynes, pp.50-74 Widdowson, H. (2006) in Goodman, S & O’Halloran, K. (2006) The art of English: Literary creativity, Open University, Milton Keynes, pp. 30-37