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Tsvetelina Doncheva

Year 3, group 3
FN 25417
A DISCUSSION OF THE VARIOUS COHESIVE DEVICES IN ENGLISH
BASED ON A COMPARISON OF A PROSE TEXT AND A POEM
We could draw various comparisons between texts of genres as different as these of the
memoir and the poem in terms of theme, form, language, influence on the reader We
could continue the list almost endlessly. And, although we could certainly find a number of
similarities, we cant disregard their inherent characteristics which differ essentially. In this
paper I will attempt at drawing a dividing line between these two literary forms with respect
to the cohesive devices used in them. The two texts on which I will focus are an excerpt of the
memoir of the American poet Sarah Manguso Two Kinds of Decay in which she tells about
the years of harrowing treatment she was forced to endure because of a severe disease and a
poem by the Nobel Prize laureate Seamus Heaney Personal Helikon. Apart from my
personal admiration for these works, the reason I chose them is that, although they might not
be the most exemplary pieces of the respective genres, they present us with plenty of room for
analysis.
Before comparing the two text I will discus each of them separately starting by the prose
one:
With my own1 (personal cataphoric reference to I) blood in me (personal cataphoric
reference to I), I (exophoric reference) couldn't feel, and I(exophoric reference) couldn't
move, but (adversative conjunction) with other people (generalized exophoric reference)'s
blood in me (personal anaphoric reference to I), and with chemicals in me (personal
anaphoric reference to I), I (exophoric reference) could do those things (anaphoric
demonstrative reference to feel and move). The new blood became mine (personal
anaphoric reference to I) as soon as (temporal conjunctions) it (anaphoric reference to the
new blood) entered me (personal anaphoric reference to I). Or (additive conjunction)
maybe it (anaphoric reference to the new blood) took a moment to mix with what was there
(anaphoric demonstrative reference to my blood). Or (additive conjunction) maybe it
(anaphoric reference to the new blood) took an hour or a day. My (personal anaphoric
reference to I) blood came out dirty and went in clean. It (personal anaphoric to my blood)
came out hot and went in cold. It (personal anaphoric to my blood) came out old and went in
new. And (additive conjunction) the new, cold, clean blood was better (anaphoric comparative
reference to the new cold clean blood) than the blood I (exophoric reference) made myself
(personal anaphoric reference to I).

The lexical items which contribute to lexical cohesion are underlined. All other devices are
marked in yellow and an explanation is provided in brackets.

Five years earlier (temporal conjunction), when (temporal conjunction) people


(exophoric reference) visited the bookstore where I (exophoric reference) worked and asked
for books for their (anaphoric personal reference to people)graduating nieces, or for a trip to
the beach, or for a plane ride, right away I (exophoric reference) would tell them (anaphoric
personal reference to people) to buy Catch-22.
I (exophoric reference) wore a tan apron with a green name tag on the right side. I
(exophoric reference) asked slowly and clearly: "May I (exophoric reference) help you
(exophoric reference) find something?"
I (exophoric reference) made eye contact with the customers, then (temporal
conjunction) walked them (anaphoric personal reference to the customers) to the books they
(anaphoric personal reference to the customers) needed. Walking the customer was the
important part. Just saying "That (exophoric reference) section's in the back, in front of
Travel", or pointing to Pets, which was behind Science, didn't result in sales as often as
(temporal conjunction) walking the customer to the very shelf, pulling the book from the shelf
and (additive conjunction) placing it (anaphoric reference to the book) in the customer's
hand.
One day (temporal conjunction), my (personal anaphoric reference to I) supervisor
asked me (personal anaphoric reference to I) to stop recommending Catch-22 to the
customers and instead (adversative conjunction) to recommend any (ellipsis: book) of the
new clothbound books stacked pyramid-style on the front table. Someone (exophoric
reference) had bought Catch-22 from me (personal anaphoric reference to I) at the front
register, then (temporal conjunction) come in later that day and returned it (anaphoric
reference to Catch-22) at the back register. My (personal anaphoric reference to I)
supervisor said it (anaphoric reference to buying Catch-22 at the front register and returning
it) was the third or fourth return of the same (anaphoric comparative reference to Catch-22)
paperback copy and (additive conjunction) it (anaphoric reference to Catch-22) was getting
shopworn. One night (temporal conjunction) in 1994, because (causal conjunction) I
(exophoric reference) had to be somewhere else, my (personal anaphoric reference to I)
college boyfriend brought my (personal anaphoric reference to I) copy of Catch-22 to
Joseph Heller's book signing and had Heller inscribe it (anaphoric reference to my copy) to
me(personal anaphoric reference to I). My (personal anaphoric reference to I) copy of the
book was a cheap paperback, with a bent aqua-coloured cover, but I (exophoric reference)
hope that as he (cataphoric personal reference to Heller) held the book in his (anaphoric
personal reference to Heller) hands, Heller hadn't wished I (exophoric reference)'d sprung for
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a clothbound copy of his (anaphoric personal reference to Heller) new novel, whatever it
(anaphoric reference to new novel) was, and (additive conjunction) that he (anaphoric
personal reference to Heller) was happy I(exophoric reference)'d read his (anaphoric personal
reference to Heller) famous book so many times and that I (exophoric reference)'d loved it
(anaphoric reference to his famous book) enough to send someone (exophoric reference) out
to have it (anaphoric reference to his famous book)signed for me (personal anaphoric
reference to I).
Six months later (temporal conjunction), I (exophoric reference) received the diagnosis
that would become the focus of my (personal anaphoric reference to I) life, and (additive
conjunction) Heller died four years after (temporal conjunction) that (anaphoric reference to
receiving the diagnosis) after (temporal conjunction) a long, slow recovery from the
same (cataphoric comparative reference to disease) disease.
Two kinds of Decay is a poignant story we see a world of suffering through the eyes
of the author. This personal, almost intimate, point of view is evident even in our rather
formal analysis. A brief look is enough to see that personal references to I- the narrator are
abundant even throughout this short passage. Typically for the memoir genre this puts the
focus on the narrator and its personal experience. This could also account for the fact that
complex emphatic conjunctions are almost lacking. Sometimes the sequencing of the events
in the narrative seems a bit illogical because it follows a personal psychologically grounded
order, to a great extent founded on associations. The narrative is kept clear and no ambiguity
arises - there is only one instance of ellipsis and none of substitution whereas there are plenty
of examples of lexical cohesion: at the very beginning the repetition of blood and the
antonym couples come in- go out, clean - dirty, cold - hot, new - old contribute to the
cohesion of the text. Further in the passage we come across reiteration of book and bookrelated items which support the overall impression of a cohesive whole. The same is the
situation with the sale- related vocabulary: customers, register, buy, etc.
In the passage there are quite few generalized references which again come to prove the
focus of the narrative is inside it in a way, it doesnt aim at any universal conclusions or
morals. It just tells the story of a personal experience and we can see this quite clearly in the
cohesive devices used in the text.
Now we will turn to the second text which is object of our study - Seamus Heaneys
Personal Helikon.
As a child, they (generalized exophoric reference) could not keep me (cataphoric personal
refernce to I) from wells
And (additive conjunction) old pumps with buckets and windlasses.
I (exophoric reference) loved the dark drop, the trapped sky, the smells
Of waterweed, fungus and (additive conjunction) dank moss.
One (substitution: a well), in a brickyard, with a rotted board top.
I (exophoric reference) savoured the rich crash when (temporal conjunction) a bucket
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Plummeted down at the end of a rope.


So deep you (generalize exophoric reference) saw no reflection in it (anaphoric reference to a
bucket).
A shallow one (substitution: a well) under a dry stone ditch
Fructified like any aquarium.
When (temporal conjunction) you (generalize exophoric reference) dragged out long roots
from the soft mulch
A white face hovered over the bottom.
Others (substitution: wells) had echoes, gave back your own (anaphoric reference to you)
call
With a clean new music in it (anaphoric reference to your own call). And one (substitution:
a well)
Was scaresome, for there (anaphoric demonstrative reference to the well), out of ferns and
tall
Foxgloves, a rat slapped across my (anaphoric personal reference to I) reflection.
Now (temporal conjunction), to pry into roots, to finger slime,
To stare, big-eyed Narcissus, into some (cataphoric comparative reference to spring) spring
Is beneath all adult dignity. I (exophoric reference) rhyme
To see myself (anaphoric personal reference to I), to set the darkness echoing.
In this text the first thing the stand out is that in comparison to the first passage
considered here, in the poem the instances of personal reference are far fewer we can find
them at the very beginning and at the very end of poem. This serves as a frame for the whole
work and marks its development. In the rest of the work we see two kinds of generalized
exophoric references you and they. They typically denotes a kind of authority, in the
case we assume this refers to the adults as opposed to the narrator being a child. The other
exaphora, you, stands for some universal unity of readers maybe, addressees in a way. That
leads us to the conclusion that while in the excerpt of Two Kinds of Decay the focus is on
the individual of the narrator, in Personal Helikon the individuals story serves as a
background for a universal message to be addressed.
The conjunctions in the poem in question are scarce they are mostly additive while in
the prose passage a lot of temporal were needed because of the sequence of events. Here the
explicit temporal conjunction is now in the last stanza as opposed to the past described
before and it contributes to the peculiar epilogue of the poem. Throughout the poem we come
across a number of substitutions two cases of one as a substitute which however dont

result in ambiguities because the thematic focus is given in the very beginning and there is no
way to miss that these two refer to wells.
When it comes to lexical cohesion, this is what not only makes the text of the poem
cohesive, it is the reason for its emotional impact. First, the framework of the poem is largely
due to a collocation - an antonym couple child - adult and it marks a development within the
poem. Whats more the final adult dignity corresponds to they, the adults, in the first stanza
but the difference is that while in the beginning they signified a kind of outer authority in
opposition to the narrator- child, at the end the voice of the speaker is also encompassed in
the adults. Then we have a whole set of vocabulary related to wells buckets,
windlasses, pumps, bottom. Then, words related to the flora associated with the wells:
waterweed, fungus, moss, roots, ferns, foxgloves. But what seems most interesting
is the development of the earth-related vocabulary: at the beginning it is soft mulch but in
the final stanza we come across slime which has rather negative connotations. This
corresponds to the idea already discussed that in this stanza we hear the voice of the adults
and not the enthusiasm of the child.
Other interesting items of lexical cohesion are these involved in the semantic field of
voice at the beginning we find rich crash, echo, call, clean new music. At the very
end we see rhyme which apart from the meaning related to poetry, has another associated
with child song. If we look at it from that prospective we can see in that development the
speakers desperate attempt to revive his childhood pleasures.
Having in mind these two texts are not typical representatives of their genres, we cant
attempt at drawing too general conclusions but we can try at least to sum up what was already
discussed in terms of characteristic usage of cohesive devices. The poem being a lot shorter
explains to a certain extent why there are a lot more instances of substitutions in it compared
to the prose text. The poem in consideration relies heavily on lexical cohesion since it
conveys, spreads, and reinforces the main idea through its images. With the prose text the
reference items was what hold it together along with the temporal conjunctions a necessity
imposed on the text by the retrospection it involves. However this is a devices very rarely
used in poetic forms which may account for the fact that temporal conjunctions dont have
significance in poems.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:
1.
2.
3.
4.

Cohesion in English, Halliday & Hasan;


Personal Helikon, Seamus Heaney;
The two kinds of Decay, Sarah Manguso;
http://guardian.co.uk on 24.01.2011