You are on page 1of 13

What is literature?

Literature, as an art, is surely to arouse “the excitement of emotion for
the purpose of immediate pleasure, through the medium of beauty”
(Coleridge 365).
Tung (2007): “verbal artfulness” - proper choice and good arrangement of
all linguistic components (phonological, morphological, syntactical, semantic,
and pragmatic).

What is ‘literariness’

Russian Formalists –“defamiliarisation”: deviating from and distorting
“practical language”.
Mukarovsky – “the function of poetic language consists in the maximum
of foregrounding of the utterance”
“foregrounding”  opposite of “automatisation” (related to
defamiliarisation i.e. to estrange something is to foreground it)

The concept of "literariness" has been critically examined and found
Prominent literary theorists have argued that there are no special
characteristics that distinguish literature from other texts.
“defamiliarisation” as the sufficient feature of any literary composition.
Familiar becomes the unfamiliar

Foregrounding (noun)
1. The part of a scene or picture that is nearest to and in front of the viewer.
(opposed to background).
2. a prominent or important position; forefront.
The rocky outcropping in the foreground, surrounded by trees, caught my
attention, as well as the dead tree placed just to the left.
The notion of foregrounding, a term borrowed from the Prague School of
Linguistics, is used by Leech and Short (1981: 48) to refer to ‘artistically
motivated deviation’.
It refers to the range of stylistic effects that occur in literature, whether at
the phonetic level (e.g., alliteration, rhyme), the grammatical level (e.g.,
inversion, ellipsis), or the semantic level (e.g., metaphor, irony).

What literature is, how it works, and why it is there at all, are some of
the fascinating questions that the theory of 'foregrounding' tries to provide
answers to.
The term refers to specific linguistic devices, i.e., deviation and parallelism,
used in literary texts in a functional and condensed way.
These devices enhance the meaning potential of the text, while also providing
the reader with the possibility of aesthetic experience .
According to the theory of foregrounding, literature - by employing unusual
forms of language - breaks up the reader's routine behavior: commonplace

Mukarovský : "When used poetically. to achieve defamiliarization. 12) Foregrounding may occur in normal. 1964. spoken discourse. journalistic prose). 20) the deautomatization of an act (Foregrounding is the opposite of automatization. (“The Trout. It is a laurel walk. p. very old. (1964. to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged. . p. 1917/1965. The technique is to make objects "unfamiliar. sinewy branches." to make forms difficult. 9). “G---”. Objectively speaking: automatization schematizes an event.views and perspectives are replaced by new and surprising insights and sensations. that is. on the other hand. In this way literature keeps or makes individuals aware of their automatized actions and preconceptions. That is. In literary texts. p.was The Dark Walk. a lofty midnight tunnel of smooth. p. almost gone wild. (1917/1965. but it occurs at random with no systematic design. It thus contributes to general creativity and development in societies.” by Sean O'Faoláin (1980-82) Foregrounding effects: the unusual abbreviation of the name. Underfoot the tough brown leaves are never dry enough to crackle: there is always a suggestion of damp and cool trickle. deautomatization of an act. The theory of foregrounding is also one of the few literary theories which have been tested empirically for its validity. similar features may recur. 19) The immediate effect of foregrounding is to make strange (ostranenie).g. the more it is foregrounded. (e. the more an act is automatized. Miall and Kuiken (1994): Stylistic variation that evokes feelings and prolong reading time. One of the first places Julia always ran to when they arrived in G--. foregrounding means the violation of the scheme. foregrounding is structured: it tends to be both systematic and hierarchical. the Foregrounding Shklovsky saw defamiliarization as accompanied by feeling: stylistic devices in literary texts "emphasize the emotional effect of an expression" (Shklovsky. 73). the less it is consciously executed. the more completely conscious does it become. everyday language. She raced right into it. p. such as a pattern of assonance or a related group of metaphors (Mukarovský. words and groups of words evoke a greater richness of images and feelings than if they were to occur in a communicative utterance" (1977.

or understood. . Within literature. this is opposed by devices which thwart the automatism with which language is read. /l/. which attracts attention and aids memorability. the metaphoric use of “midnight” and “sinewy” the consonance in the third sentence of “crackle” and “trickle. two such devices may be distinguished. allowing time for the feelings created by the alliterations and metaphors to emerge. and his / her attention is thereby drawn to the form of the text itself (rather than to its content). or conventions. Generally. This deviation from expectation produces the effect of foregrounding.” The novel linguistic features strike readers as interesting and capture their attention (defamiliarization per se). and his / her attention is thereby drawn to the form of the text itself (rather than to its content). Such as when this font has just changed. Various levels of deviation: lexical deviation grammatical deviation phonological deviation graphological deviation semantic deviation dialectal deviation deviation of register and deviation of historical period. however. deviation and parallelism. Foregrounding is realized by linguistic deviation and linguistic parallelism. maxims. its structures and meanings are used routinely. processed. Deviation corresponds to the traditional idea of poetic license: the writer of literature is allowed . Devices of Foregrounding Outside literature. language tends to be automatized. /s/. Result: some degree of surprise in the reader. The result is some degree of surprise in the reader. These feelings guide formulation of an enriched perspective on the Dark Walk. Defamiliarization obliges the reader to slow deviate from rules. Foregrounding Deviation Parallelism The Realization of Foregrounding (Leech) Deviation A phenomenon when a set of rules or expectations are broken in some way.alliteration of /n/. as well as literary traditions or expectations set up by the text itself. These may involve the contrast to the everyday speaker .

But these new words are seldom or hardly used on other occasions. he did not feel as though he had just cranched. some invented new words are only used by the inventor himself. Eliot uses the term ‘foresuffer’ in his The Waste Land ‘And I Tiresias have foresuffered all’ *not just a new word but the encapsulation of a newly formulated idea . father!” “Don’t father me!” — H. you rascal!”roared the Majesty of Prussia.Lexical Deviation The coining of entirely new words (neologism) When he awakened under the wire. Sometimes a writer intends to reach certain kind of rhetorical effect.e. “saltness”)  Rarely classify aspects of universe by their tendency to make people into widows (compare to “cloth-making”) . Lexical deviation “Don’t be such a harsh parent. — Macaulay The most common processes of word-formation are affixation the widow-making unchildring unfathering deeps (Hopkin’s ‘The wreck of the Deutschland’) is possible to anticipate mystically the suffering of the future. G. That means in literature. (children) of fathers. (“beforehand” T. Wells I was explaining the Golden Bull to his Royal Highness. Surely these nonce-formations (words invented for special purpose) bring about certain stylistic effect and greatly improve the power of newness and expression of the language. unfrock.= ‘take off/away from’ (i. so he will invent some new words based on the rules of word-formation. just like ‘foresee’ or ‘foretell’ In stylistics lexical deviation refers to a new word or expression or a new meaning for an old word used on only particular occasion. “I’ll Golden Bull you. “blueness”.S. and (parents) of children’  Tragic happenings connected with the sea Perhaps implies the wish to recognise a concept or property which the language can so far only express by phrasal or clausal description  Attribute to the inseparable sea properties (“wetness”. unhorse) Possible cognitive meaning: ‘the deeps which deprive (wives) of husbands. he felt fit (Cordwainer Smith 1950). unleash. Even though it was the second cranching within the week.odd . The prefix fore is applied to verbs like ‘see’ and ‘tell’.

Red Rose) Mispronunciation and Sub-standard Pronunciation Intentional mispronunciation and sub-standard pronunciation Purpose: vividly describe a character. o’  of. While the sands o’ life shall run. — Fotherhill They were else-minded then. altogether. the mastery of the thing [The Windhover] Lexical deviation There was a balconyful of gentlemen. — Hopkins Usually associated with neologism (invention of new ‘words’) We call new words NONCE-FORMATIONS if they are made up ‘for the nonce’. for a single occasion only. True to life Dickens. And the rocks melt wi’ the sun: I will luve thee still. A Red. rather than serious attempts to augment the wordstock for some new need.. Phonological deviation Phonological irregularities Omission Aphesis – the omission of an initial part (unstressed vowel) ‘mid amid. i. my dear.Lexical Deviation Functional conversion of word class – adapting an item to a new grammatical function without changing its form Let him easter in us [The Wreck of the Deutschland] The just man justices [As King fishers Catch Fire] The achieve of. Till a’ the seas gang dry. They change the pronunciations of the original words so that the poet may better and more easily arrange sound patterns to achieve their intended communicative effects. (Robert Burns. oft  often They are conventional licenses of verse composition. the men. o’er  over Apocope – the omission of a final part of a word a’ all. Oliver Twist: depiction of Gamfield . Poetic license is a writer’s privilege to depart from some expected standard.e. — Chesterton We left the town refreshed and rehatted. ‘lone  alone Syncope – the omission of a medial part of a word. ne’er  never. wi’ with. my dear.

B. gen'l'men. can spring be far behind? (P. It's humane too. and that's wot he likes. punctuation. even if they've stuck in the chimbley. muthering divil? Ah.'That's acause they damped the straw afore they lit it in the chimbley to make 'em come down again. will. etc. “Yes. catching the eye of one of the policemen. and wery lazy. If winter comes. “You bloody murthering thafe! rack my son over the head. you hard-hearted. “You bloody murthering thafe! rack my son over the head. R. you hard-hearted.” she added. ye —” —Sister Carrie by T. will.‘ Mispronunciation and Sub-standard Pronunciation May God starve ye yet. and no blaze. grammetrics.” yelled an old Irish woman who now threw open a nearby window and stuck out her head. indentation.' said Gamfield. muthering divil? Ah.” she added. Wind. Special Pronunciation Purpose: convenience of rhyming The trumpet of a prophecy! O. . 'that's all smoke. Dreiser The way of speaking reveals that the speaker is a working-class woman. Ode to the West Wind) Graphological Deviation Related to type of print. Shelley. for it only sinds him to sleep. Graphology: the encoding of meaning in visual symbols Graphological Deviation Shape of Text Design of the shape of a text in an unconventional way: suggestive of a certain literary theme. roasting their feet makes 'em struggle to hextricate theirselves. Gen'l'men. Draper. and you. Target Practice .” yelled an old Irish woman who now threw open a nearby window and stuck out her head. vereas smoke ain't o' no use at all in making a boy come down. ye —” —Sister Carrie by T. catching the eye of one of the policemen. Boys is wery obstinit. “Yes. Dreiser What is the function of the deviant phonological features? What does her accent tell us about the old woman? Mispronunciation and Sub-standard Pronunciation May God starve ye yet. and there's nothink like a good hot blaze to make 'em come down vith a run. and you. acause.

Each circle from the outside to the inside represents a progression in the degree of seriousness of injury. Cumming. Most likely a main verb in ‘ing’ from will follow. . the absence of punctuation at the end of line (also stanza) gives a sense of incompleteness L5: which indicates a new clause. Every line of the poem creates a pulling-forward effect (CLASS TASK) L1: The verb eat can take an object or not. capitalization and decapitalization. etc. E. This is just to say by William Carlos William I have eaten the plums that were in icebox and which you were probably saving for breakfast Forgive me they were delicious so sweet and so cold The title of the poem does not stand on its own  main clause of the first sentence which runs over the first two stanzas of the poem. We would naturally move on to find out what follows which and what which refers to exactly. the absence of punctuation at the end of the line makes us expect one. bold print. Me up at does Grammetrics Grammetrics: the ways in which grammatical units are fitted into metrical units such as lines and stanzas. E. After in one would expect from the context some kind of locative in the next line L4: expectation fulfilled. L2: expectation is satisfied. L6: sense of incompletenes. but saving suggests the plums are either ‘for someone’ or ‘for some occasion’. But a new expectation is aroused with the presence of the definite article the The  cataphoric reference since plums was not mentioned previously in the poem. L3: a clause that modifies the plums. L7: expectation fulfilled. This indicates the specific reference is contained in the following context. but not finished. This may show that the poet intends the poem to be read as a whole and places emphasis on the unity of the discourse.The poem is shaped like a bull’s eye or target with a series of concentric circles. Uniqueness and originality Type of Print italics.

The examples are: I doesn’t like him. . fastened me flesh ii. Examples of morphological deviation are museyroom. How do we explain what we have observed then? The overall pulling-forward effect brings great immediacy to the sensuous experience being described in the poem. eggtentical. giving great immediacy to what is being described. We read on because we know from the absence of punctuation that the poem is not finished. and we realise from the context that there may be more interesting things to be read. or removing their ‘usual’ affixes. allows reader to share the taste of the plums in a leisurely manner with the speaker I. or running several words together so they appear as one long word a billion brains may coax undeath from fancied fact and spaceful time (e. Last Stanza: Slowing down of pace  no more syntactic expectation. Syntactic Deviation Syntactic deviation refers to departures from normal (surface) grammar.e. “the achieve of. A grief ago (Dylan Thomas) iii. Title +the 2 stanzas constantly arousing syntactic expectations from readers. She dwelt among the untrodden ways (Wordsworth) Morphological Deviation Involves adding affixes to words which they would not usually have. and intellible in James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake. It is also intended to make the reader actively involve himself in reading the poem. thus showing that he lays great emphasis on immediate sensuous experience. the mastery of the things” (Hopkins. cummings 1960) Syntactic Deviation In syntax. deviations might be 1) bad or incorrect grammar and 2) syntactic rearrangement/ hyperbaton. These include a number of features such as unsual clause Poet disregards the rules of sentence i. and read it with great interest and pleasure. Breaking words up into their constituent morphemes. the Windhover) Two types of grammatical deviation are morphological and syntactic deviations. The contrast in pace between the two stanzas and the last stanza is of even greater significance. Last stanza slowing down of the pace.L8: missing full stop at the end of line – sentence not finished L9: the capitalisation of 1st letter indicates a new sentence.

I know not Saw you anything? He me saw. (Wordsworth’s My Heart Leaps Up) She was a phantom of delight (Shakespeare) Beauty is truth. so long as we realize that sense is used. This sort of deviation may prompt the reader to look beyond the dictionary definition of the words in order to interpret the text. but not 'the irritable pie'. through doorway voices Of new men making another love. spread of welcome. For example. Waving from window. Conventionally. But waking sees Bird-flocks nameless to him. Kissing of wife under single sheet. Part of the fascination (and the humour) of Catch 22 is the way in which it constructs conditions under which such opposites can both be true at the same time. or 'the crusty pie'. it is normally assumed that any modifiers of a noun will be semantically compatible: 'The meat pie'. “a grief ago” (expect a temporal noun) “in the room so loud to my own” (expect a spatial adjective) The Wanderer There head falls forward. Metaphor The child is father of the man. Semantic deviation can be meant as ‘non-sense’ or ‘absurdity’. These seem to have the function of impressionistically evoking psychological state. the expressions ‘sane’ and ‘crazy’ are opposite in meaning. In “The Wanderer” Auden evolves a subjectless.g.. truth beauty (Keats) Semantic Deviation This describes relations that are logically inconsistent or paradoxical in some way. Semantic deviation Tranference of meaning phrase containing a word whose meaning violates the expectations created by the surrounding words e. in this context in a strictly literal minded way. articleless style which apparently suggests the exile’s loss of a sense of identity and of a coordinated view of life. . fatigued at evening. Meaning relations which are logically inconsistent or paradoxical in some way – . And dreams of home.

meter Occurs at all levels of language (phonological. Parallelism I looked upon the rotting sea. Parallelism (The Beatles .. Elm) Deviant worlds In the town where I was born Lived a man who sailed to sea. I know it with my great tap root: (S. 53. T. And he told us of his life In the land of submarines.This profusion of semantic anomalies in the opening chapters of Catch 22 helps to create the impression of a world in which war has undermined the rational basis of social and moral action. And we lived beneath the waves In our yellow submarine. morphological etc. blow. Yellow Submarine) A rhetorical device characterized by over-regularity or repetitive structures e. she says. alliteration. as are transgressions and iniquities.. As You Like It) Wind is greater than usual / the speaker has stronger feelings about it than usual But he was wounded for our transgressions. rhyme.g. assonance. Eliot's "Ash-Wednesday” Repetition Blow. And drew my eyes away.v) wounded and bruised are intended to be viewed as equivalent in some way. So we sailed up to the sun Till we found the sea of green. thou winter wind (Shakespeare. S. .. he was bruised for our iniquities (Isaiah.) Because I do not hope to turn again Because I do not hope Because I do not hope to turn. Dickinson) I know the bottom. syntactic. Deviant Voices: Discoursal Deviation I heard a Fly buzz – when I died – The Stillness in the Room Was like the Stillness in the Air – Between the Heaves of Storm – (E. Plath.

" "Rowena Ravenclaw (characters in Harry Potter series) Syntactic / grammatical Parallelism "Thinking less. When we talk of things being in parallel. Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” Sometimes the effect of a repeated phrase in a poem will be to emphasize a development or change by means of the contrast in the words following the identical phrases. he was a gentle young man. Reinforcing ideas of importance and 2. the repeating thought is that of a young man of very warm affection. assonance. then the things are of equal force and have the same tone. being more. Parallelism in prose aims at basically two things: 1. lexical parallelism i. In the first instance. He was a tender young man. if the writer wants to reinforce a certain idea or thought. and each morning we pray. he was an affectionate young man." (Edgar Allen Poe.e. And there the dead men lay. He was the man everyone wanted.“ Also. The thoughts expressed by the repeating pattern are also repeated. Each morning we sing." "Luna Lovegood. For example. he will repeat it by using a cyclic pattern: he will repeat sentence . from the less personal to the more personal is emphasized in Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by such a repetition of phrases Phonological parallelism Rhyming verse Alliteration. loving more. ‘less/more’ word  phrase  clause The birds are in their nests and in their nests they sing. each morning we dance. Making the text more pleasurable to the reader. Fearing less. consonance "the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain. feeling more. Parallelism and effect Parallelism is more than just a repetition of sentence structure. the shift from the distant to the near.I looked upon the rotting deck. In the example above. The Raven) Severus Snape. Doing less.

'The Journey of the Magi'. Not only do we notice rhythmical patterns. in each word.each of the words consists of two syllables. This enabled those reading the slogan to compare Persil mentally with whatever washing powder they used. kicked and scratched the children making fun of him.structure or word order. We are naturally musical by nature and are sensitive to rhythm. /w/ i. A non-literary example It is grammatically deviant.e. washing with Persil (via the 'parallelism processing rule') becomes more closely associated with 'whiter' than would be the case without the parallelism.  'parallelism processing rule‘ The angry boy lupped. . with. the parallelism foregrounds the advertising slogan and also helps to make it memorable In addition. The overall effect is that the reader will notice the point that he wants to emphasise and pay particular attention to it. It is a comparative structure which has no object of comparison. a passage imbued with parallelism is enjoyable and memorable. and so go away with the message that Persil washed whiter than their particular washing powder. Parallel structures also often induce readers to perceive a 'same meaning' or 'opposite meaning' relationship between the parallel parts. What does “lupped’ mean here? Parallelism in prose also aims at pleasuring the reader. One of the three wise men is describing the difficult journey they made to witness the birth of Christ in Bethlehem. S. Rhythmic parallelism: .alliteration PERSIL WASHES WHITER Overall. the first syllable carrying a major stress and the second syllable carrying a very low degree of stress. Thus. The initial consonant sounds of 'washes' and 'whiter' are the same phoneme. A literary example Below are the first four lines of T. Eliot's poem. but we also enjoy them. This use of the uncompared comparative is quite common in advertising slogans. for obvious reasons! A non-literary example PERSIL WASHES WHITER The parallelism is at the phonological level of language and has two dimensions.

Just the worst time of the year For a journey. Both examples have relatively the same meaning – they describe how cold the journey was. and such a long journey: The ways deep and the weather sharp Examine the final line of the quotation. In what ways can the two noun phrases on either side of the coordinator 'and' be said to parallel one another structurally? What is the effect of this structural parallelism? Literary examples 'The ways deep' and 'the weather sharp' are grammatically parallel: they are both noun phrases consisting of the same internal structure. 'The ways deep' . a noun premodified by the definite article and postmodified by an adjective.there was a bitingly cold wind .the magi had to struggle through deep snow 'the weather sharp' .A cold coming we had of it.