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Poetry and poetic imagery

1. Linguistic images
• A poem conveys its meaning through words
chosen and arranged in images.

• Three elements characterise each word:

the denotation
(dictionary definition)

the connotation
(the associations and feelings
evoked in the reader’s mind)

the sound

Performer - Culture & Literature


Poetry and poetic imagery

2. Comparisons

• Poets use comparisons to make their


descriptions more vivid or precise.

• When you analyse a poem, you should ask yourself:

- What things are being compared?


- How are they similar?
- How is the comparison achieved?
- What does the comparison convey?
- How does the comparison relate to the whole poem?

Performer - Culture & Literature


Poetry and poetic imagery

3. Simile

• A simile is a comparison between two things, which


is made explicit through the use of the following words:

‘like’ ‘than’ ‘as’ or ‘resembles’

• A simile is usually more striking if it compares two


essentially unlike things.

Performer - Culture & Literature


Poetry and poetic imagery

3. Simile
• Example:
And though so much distinguished, he was wise
And in his bearing modest as a maid
(G. Chaucer, Canterbury Tales)

• The functions of a simile are:


- to convey a more vivid idea of the scene or object;
- to make the meaning easier to understand;
- to introduce an element of surprise;
- to create an emotional response in the reader.

Performer - Culture & Literature


Poetry and poetic imagery

4. Metaphor

• While a simile establishes a comparison between two


separate things, a metaphor describes something as
if it were something else.

• It is a means of comparison between two things that


are basically dissimilar without connective words
such as ‘like’ or ‘as’.

Performer - Culture & Literature


Poetry and poetic imagery

4. Metaphor
• The elements of a metaphor are:

the tenor
(the subject of the metaphor)
the vehicle
(what the subject is compared to)

• The analogy between them, the ideas they share,


are called:

common ground

Performer - Culture & Literature


Poetry and poetic imagery

4. Metaphor
• Example:
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
(W. Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act 5)

tenor vehicle
Life walking shadow

common ground
impalpability

• This scheme can also be applied to the simile. Simile


and metaphor have more or less the same functions
even if the latter has a stronger emotional impact.

Performer - Culture & Literature


Poetry and poetic imagery

5. Personification
• Personification is another form of imagery which
attributes the characteristics of a living being to
abstract things or to inanimate objects.

• In the following lines Chaucer speaks about


the spring wind:
When also Zephyrus with his sweet breath
Exhales an air in every grove and heath
(G. Chaucer, Canterbury Tales)

• Personification can be recognised by the use of the


capital letter (Zephyrus), of possessive adjective (his)
and verbs referring to human actions (exhales).

Performer - Culture & Literature


Poetry and poetic imagery

6. Symbol

• A symbol is any thing, person, place or action that


has a literal meaning

and also

• stands for something else, such as a quality, an


attitude, a belief or a value.

Performer - Culture & Literature


Poetry and poetic imagery

6. Symbol
• Most symbols are shared by the members of the same
cultural community and are therefore easy to
understand.

• Examples:
a rose symbol of love and beauty;
a skull symbol of death;
spring and winter symbols of youth and old
age.

• There are symbols, however, which are the individual


creation of a poet. In order to understand them, it will be
necessary to study and analyse not only the context of the
poem, but also the writer’s work and background.

Performer - Culture & Literature


Poetry and poetic imagery

7. Allegory
• Allegory combines a number of different symbols into a
totality, often a story.

• For example, in The Canterbury Tales:

the pilgrimage to
Canterbury = allegory of the journey
towards the celestial city

Performer - Culture & Literature


Poetry and poetic imagery

8. Oxymoron

• Oxymoron is the combination of two usually


contradictory things which is sometimes used
to express extreme feelings.

• Examples:

Sweet sorrow

Dear enemy

Performer - Culture & Literature


Poetry and poetic imagery

9. Hyperbole

• Hyperbole means exaggeration of a quantity,


a quality or a concept.

• It is often used in everyday language:

I told you a thousand times.

Performer - Culture & Literature


Poetry and poetic imagery

10. Litotes

• Litotes is the contrary of hyperbole, a rhetorical


understatement in which the negative of the opposite
meaning is used.

• Example:

You will find him not ill-disposed

=
He will be favourably disposed.

Performer - Culture & Literature