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Analyzing Poetry

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  1. Analyzing Poetry Diction Imagery Syntax

  2. 1624 Emily Dickinson Apparently with no surprise To any happy flower, The frost beheads it at its play In accidental power. The blond assassin passes on, The sun proceeds unmoved To measure off another day For an approving God.

  3. Diction An author's choice of words. Since words have specific meanings, and since one's choice of words can affect feelings, a writer's choice of words can have great impact in a literary work. The writer, therefore, must choose his words carefully. For instance, how will the poem change if she chose “blooming” instead of “happy.”

  4. Diction • How to do diction: Look up the word in the dictionary. Think of other words that could be used. Understand what denotation, connotation, and ambiguity are and how they affect words.

  5. Diction • Denotation and Connotation should be learned today. • A denotation is the strict, literal, dictionary definition of a word, devoid of any emotion, attitude, or color. • The denotation of this example is a red rose with a green stem. The connotation is that it is a symbol of passion and love - this is what the rose represents.

  6. Connotation Within contemporary society, connotation branches into a mixture of different meanings. The connotation essentially relates to how anything may be associated with a word or phrase, for example, an implied value judgment or feelings.

  7. Connotation A stubborn person may be described as being either strong-willed or pig-headed. Although these have the same literal meaning (i.e. stubborn), strong-willedconnotes admiration for the level of someone's will, while pig-headedconnotes frustration in dealing with someone.

  8. Connotation Likewise, used car and previously owned car have the same literal meaning, but many dealerships prefer the latter, since it is thought to have fewer negativeconnotations.・It is often useful to avoid words with strong connotations (especially disparaging ones) when striving to achieve a neutral point of view. A desire for more positive connotations, or fewer negative ones, is one of the main reasons for using euphemisms.[1]

  9. Ambiguity Lexical ambiguity arises when context is insufficient to determine the sense of a single word that has more than one meaning. For example, the word “bank” has several meanings, including “financial institution” and “edge of a river,” but if someone says “I deposited $100 in the bank,” the intended meaning is clear.

  10. Ambiguity More problematic are words whose senses express closely related concepts. “Good,” for example, can mean “useful” or “functional” (That is a good hammer), “exemplary” (She is a good student), “pleasing” (This is good soup), “moral” (He is a good person), and probably other similar things. “I have a good daughter” is not clear about which sense is intended. The various ways to apply prefixes and suffixes can also create ambiguity (“unlockable” can mean “capable of being unlocked” or “impossible to lock”).

  11. Let’s try “happy” Step 1 Find the definitions that can be used in this poem. adj.1.Characterized by good luck; fortunate. 2.Enjoying, showing, or marked by pleasure, satisfaction, or joy. 3.Being especially well-adapted; felicitous: a happy turn of phrase.

  12. Diction 4.Cheerful; willing: happy to help. 1.Characterized by a spontaneous or obsessive inclination to use something. Often used in combination: trigger-happy. 2.Enthusiastic about or involved with to a disproportionate degree. Often used in combination: money-happy; clothes-happy.

  13. Synonyms fortunate, lucky, providential. These adjectives mean attended by luck or good fortune: a happy outcome; a fortunate omen; a lucky guess; a providential recovery. See also synonyms at glad.

  14. Discussion Meaning one: It doesn’t seem possible that we could see a flower that is being destroyed by frost as “fortunate” or “lucky.” Let’s think about this as an example of “irony.”

  15. Discussion Meaning two: It seems possible that a flower in the early morning could be blowing around and looking like it is dancing and therefore showing “joy” or “pleasure.”

  16. Discussion Meaning three: It is possible that the flower is especially selected for this particular event. It has been “selected” for the execution. Others have not.

  17. Discussion Meaning four: The flower’s willingness to be executed fits it in with the strange use of “approving” with God.

  18. Discussion The last two meanings obviously don’t work, but they shouldn’t as they have been added since Dickinson’s death.

  19. Apparently with no surprise To any happy flower, The frost beheads it at its play In accidentalpower. The blondassassinpasses on, The sun proceeds unmoved To measure off another day For an approving God.

  20. Let’s Talk Meaning • Do the meanings line up? In other words, are there meanings of the words you looked up that have something to do with each other? What do they have to do with each other? What does that mean to you?

  21. Imagery • A word or group of words in a literary work which appeal to one or more of the senses: sight, taste, touch, hearing, and smell. The use of images serves to intensify the impact of the work. Example: The red rose waved on our lawn. We can see the rose, its color and its action.

  22. Imagery Example The salty ship pitched in the sea. Here we can see the salt clinging to the ship, and we can taste “salty” as well, something in this case that the thirsty men are doing.

  23. Imagery Example Her heart was rasped by the sandpaper of his cut-down. By putting “rasped” and “sandpaper” together, the author lets us feel her misery from his insult.

  24. Imagery Images provide center to the work and a feeling to it. Stories require nouns and adjectives for us to sense. Images are how we grasp the work. Authors who use images show, they don’t tell.

  25. Images Apparently with no surprise To any happy flower, The frostbeheads it at its play In accidental power. The blond assassinpasses on, The sunproceedsunmoved To measure off another day For an approving God.

  26. What don’t we see? • Why not “approving God”? • Why not “accidental power”?

  27. What do we see? • Tell the story now that you know the images. • Do the images line up? • Are the images ambiguous? • Speculate on the meaning of the poem.

  28. Sources Dictionary of literary terms. Wikipedia for definitions of denotation, connotation, and ambiguity. Definition of “happy”