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ENGL 102. Poetic Conventions (Topos) & Parody. Definition: Poetic Conventions (Topos). A customary form, an accepted and therefore expected way of doing something. (e.g. simile, metaphor, the sonnet, verse forms etc.)
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ENGL 102 Poetic Conventions (Topos) & Parody
Definition: Poetic Conventions (Topos) • A customary form, an accepted and therefore expected way of doing something. (e.g. simile, metaphor, the sonnet, verse forms etc.) • Topos in Greek means place. In its literary use, it means a place that is revisited, a place that is familiar because of many past occasions when it already appeared in literature and poetry. • Topos is NOT a cliché. A cliché repeats something. A topos repeats in different ways. • Topos can also be a basis for parody (if the poet inverts or satirizes the convention).
Range: How extensive is the topos? Does it pervade the whole poem, part of it, one line only? • Can be one line, part of one line, part of a whole poem, or the whole poem itself. • Examples: invocation to a muse use of antithesis in sonnet writing using a verse form or shaping form (i.e. villanelle or ode)
An example for Topos:Use of antithesis between fire and ice Fire and Ice by Robert Frost Some say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice. From what I’ve tasted of desire I hold with those who favor fire. But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate To say that for destruction ice Is also great And would suffice. Course Reader, page 82
Other examples of topos: Carpe Diem poetry • A topos may be more extensive. It may involve not simply a specific image (such as the antithesis between fire and ice) but a broader topic or structure of composition. One such topos is the approach or attitude to life called carpe diem, or “seize the day.” • This topos has a long history and can be re-written, modified by contemporary poets. • Look at examples of carpe diem, see Robert Herrick (page 83), Andrew Marvell (page 84), Ben Jonson (page 86).
Questions to Ponder about Poetic Conventions • The question of creativity: Can a poet be creative even when using conventions? • Does a reader need to know the conventions to enjoy, understand poetry? Is poetry just for literary scholars who know “the rules” of poetry? • Does a poet need to know the conventions to write poetry? • Function of conventions: What do they do in poetry? What kind of role do they fulfill in poetry?
Address the previous questions by commenting on the following poem: ALBA As cool as the pale wet leaves of lily-of-the-valley She lay beside me in the dawn. Ezra Pound Course Reader, page 7
The more traditional version of Alba While the nightingale sings, both night and day, I am with my beautiful beneath the flowers, until our sentry from the tower cries: ‘Lovers, get up! for I clearly see the sunrise and the day.’
PARODY DEFINITION & EXAMPLES
Definition: Parody • Dictionary meaning: “a humorous or satirical imitation of a serious piece of literature or writing.” • Wikipedia definition: “a work created to mock, comment on, or poke fun at an original work, its subject, or author, or some other target, by means of humorous, satiric or ironic imitation.”
The obvious point to know about parody In order to write parody, there has to be an original work that the poet refers to (either to criticize/satirize or make fun of). Therefore, as readers, we need to be familiar with that original work in order to fully understand what is being parodied.
Function of Parody • establishes a dialogue with the original work. In order to write a parody, you need to really understand the original work to reproduce its style and manner. • a commentary on the original work for different purposes (make fun of, criticize/satirize etc.). • The purpose of parody (though rarely) can be to be funny or witty & make us laugh. • provides a fresh perspective on the original work and what it represents. That fresh look might be about the poem or about something larger than the poem. For ex., pastoral vision can be criticized. • sees the past through the perspective of the present/that particular moment the poet writes.
Function of Parody • When one writer parodies another writer’s work, it does not necessarily mean that the original poem is without merit. Acc. to critic Dwight Macdonald “Most parodies are written out of admiration rather than contempt.” Another critic, Geoffrey Grigson, argues “Nobody is going to parody you if you haven’t style.”
Some parodies are written to adapt the original poem to contemporary setting, so they might be providing commentary on both the past and the present To Lucasta On Going to the Wars Tell me not, Sweet, I am unkind, That from the nunnery Of thy chaste breasts, and quiet mind, To war and arms I fly. True, a new mistress now I chase, The first foe in the field; And with a stronger faith embrace A sword, a horse, a shield. Yet this inconstancy is such, As you too shall adore; I could not love thee, Dear, so much, Loved I not honour more. Richard Lovelace To My Fans, on Becoming a Free Agent Tell me not, fans, I am unkind For saying my good-bye And leaving your kind cheers behind While I to new fans fly. True, I have lost your sweet embrace While on your rival's field; But I have viewed the market place And seen what it can yield. Though my disloyalty is such That all you fans abhor, It's not that I don't love you much: I just love money more. Gene Fehler
How are we to distinguish a poem is a parody or simply using topos/referring to an original poem? The Wild Swans Skip SchoolWe beat wings. We fly rings. We scorn Yeats. We have mates. We won’t stay. We fly ‘way. by Andrew Hudgins (2001)
Pastoral: Shaping Form • The Pastoral is a shaping form (like the ballad and ode). • Watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ke5-SUDrHMU • Definition of the Pastoral. Course Reader: pages 78-79 • Two Modern Parodies of the Pastoral Tradition: Poems by C. Day Lewis and William Carlos Williams Course Reader, pages 89-90. • An example of pastoral poetry (written by Marlowe) and its parody/criticism (by Ralegh). Course Reader, pages 87-89.
XIII. "When I was one-and-twenty..."When I was one-and-twentyI heard a wise man say,'Give crowns and pounds and guineasBut not your heart away;Give pearls away and rubiesBut keep your fancy free.'But I was one-and-twenty,No use to talk to me. When I was one-and-twentyI heard him say again,'The heart out of the bosomWas never given in vain;'Tis paid with sighs a plentyAnd sold for endless rue.'And I am two-and-twenty,And oh, 'tis true, 'tis true. A. E. Housman What, still alive at twenty-two?What still alive at twenty-two, A clean, upstanding chap like you? Sure, if your throat 'tis hard to slit, Slit your girl's, and swing for it. Like enough, you won't be glad When they come to hang you, lad: But bacon's not the only thing That's cured by hanging from a string. So, when the spilt ink of the night Spreads o'er the blotting-pad of light, Lads whose job is still to do Shall whet their knives, and think of you. Hugh Kingsmill
Wiki Assignment about Parody This assignment has two options. Choose one from the above: • Write a Parody of one of the poems we have studied in class and briefly discuss the main point in your poem. OR • Check the wiki for the assignment titled *Third Homework*