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How to Write a Critical Essay on Latin Poetry
by Linda Montross
I. SOUNDS How do the sounds of the words contribute to the meaning and effect? Is there -alliteration -assonance -repetition -rhyme -onomatopoeia? Sound effects may be accidental, of course, but, if they contribute in a noticeable way, they are definitely worth examining. Certain words are considered to have suggestive associations:
- b, d, g, and p, t, k are called stops; obvious repetition of one or
more of these in a line might suggest hardness, abruptness, harshness
- s, f, z, h are called spirants; these are softer and might describe
whispering, breezes, hissing, danger, sleep
- m and n are called nasals; these may indicate moaning, humming,
- l and r are called liquids; they often describe flowing streams, falling
rain, smoothness, trilling, laughing, or singing
- o and u are often used for sad, majestic, or monumental utterances.
To check whether there is a poetic use of sound in the verse, it is always ESSENTIAL to read it aloud! What do you hear? Ancient Latin poetry was written to be read aloud! Listen to its music, think about what you hear, and respond to it. II. WORD ORDER The first place in the line (or sentence) and the last are places of particular importance. The distance between a noun and its adjective may be significant. If there is a series of words, phrases, or sentences, what effect is produced? Is there an emotional build-up? let-down? climax?
description. TONE Tone refers specifically to the attitude of the author toward the characters and action. tragic.The following are relevant figures of speech/poetry and their possible effects: . embracing . foreign. prophetic. overturning. oxymoron: surprise.anastrophe.polysyndeton: heaping things one upon another . reversal. IMAGES What pictures form in your mind as you read? Consider any colors. V. hysteron proteron: interruption. his amusement at Venus' and Juno's trickery. also impressionistically . hyperbole. waves. tmesis. contrast. Look for similes.. e.any images that the poetry suggests. vasto rex Aeolus antro . "double-take" . completeness.or the unusual use of ordinary words. no time for reflection . VI. foreboding? Look at how the diction contributes to the mood.exotic.chiasmus: balance.. . nightfall. brings special emphasis to passage III. frightening.synchesis: often interlocked meanings. animals. and how the metrics complement it.asyndeton: non-stop action. we will sense Vergil's outrage at the killing of Priam. MOOD What feelings or impressions come through? Is the passage joyous. WORD CHOICE (DICTION) Note any unusual words. archaic. landscapes.g.anaphora: demands attention. For example.ellipsis: speed. Are there any phrases or words from law or religion used? Do you recognize verbal echoes of other passages? (The notes are usually very useful in calling your attention to rare words. metaphors. formal. his compassion for Dido. emphasis . battles.juxtaposition. economy .) IV. ironic. confusion.framing: words actually surround central objects.
Language and style in Virgil Here is a list of stylistic features which you may meet in the Aeneid. VII. restate. geography? How are these significant? What do they add to the passage? Allusions can add a sense of romance. THEME How does the passage relate to the overall theme(s) of the whole work? Does it state. (i) Presentation/style a) emphatic position b) repetition c) unusual word order d) juxtaposition of words for stylistic effect e) vivid detail f) accumulation of detail g) exclamations h) particular uses of names i) questions j) short sentences . and patriotism by the mere mention of commonly held items of the readers' heritage. ALLUSIONS What mention is made of specific myths. substance. Write down your answers quoting the Latin. When you are answering questions on style and effect you may wish to use them. or in his diction. see if you can find examples of some of these features in the passage.Tone is inferred from the author's actual comments to the reader. history. Working on your own or with a partner. or suggest the philosophical beliefs or objectives of the author? VIII. faraway places. Roman customs. solemnity. and say what effect in each case.
k) long sentences l) metaphor m) imagery n) simile ii) Atmosphere/sound effects a) repeated consonants (alliteration) b) repeated vowels (assonance) c) onomatopoeia d) special forms of words eg 'archaic' or 'poetic' forms e) fast lines (15+ syllables) or slow lines (14.syllables) .