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Theoretical preliminaries to literary text interpretation

Theoretical preliminaries to literary text interpretation
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Theoretical preliminaries to literary text interpretation

1. Approaches to interpretation of a literary text.
2. Elements of a literary work. Formal and poetic layers.
3. The theory of foregrounding. Foregrounding and automatization.

1. There are two main approaches to the analysis and interpretation of literature:
a) from the standpoint of the author and
b) from the standpoint of the reader.
The first approach is concerned with the study of the factors that have influenced the writer and affected his work of art. Among these factors are: the historical and political situation at the time of creation, the author’s philosophical and aesthetic views, the historical situation of the period his work represents, etc. The approach can be traced in the course of History of Literature.
The second approach attaches importance to the study of the text itself and its impact on the reader. It involves the analysis of the elements of the text which evoke definite emotional response and affect the general impression. It is the second approach that we attempt to follow while interpreting literature. In each reader, a literary work evokes some personal associations, images and thoughts.
Recreating the images in his own imagination, receiving the impressions, the reader is at the same time to pass judgements upon them, to get through the images to the author’s outlook, to the so-called image of the author reflected in his writings. An interpreter is to get at the writer’s message which can be both explicitly expressed through particular language means and only implied through elusive images. The effect a literary text produces on the reader may be ambiguous and diverse.
The message that a literary work conveys is expressed both linguistically and extralinguistically. Every character, every event, every bit of dialogue, every figure of speech contributes to the general effect. To comprehend and interpret a literary work, therefore, one should be sensitive to the author’s way of balancing both the linguistic and extralinguistic elements to stir the reader’s imagination, touch his heart and excite his mind.
Though the material of literature is l-ge, language items in the context of fiction acquire additional overtones, thus developing a great suggestive power. It mainly depends on the writer’s skill and his style. D. Lodge in his book “Language of fiction” (1966) wrote: “Style is the means by which the writer … ensures that his message is decoded in such a way that the reader not only understands the information conveyed, but shares the writer’s attitude towards it”.
2. The impact of a literary work, as it has already been stated, depends on all the elements constituting it. N. Sharova considers words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, chapters to be elements of the verbal (or formal) layer of a literary work.
Plot, theme, genre, imagery make up the poetic layer.
The verbal and poetic layers form a unity. Therefore, all the events in the plot, its structure, the characters and scenes, every dialogue and detail, the choice of words, the literary and language devices are related to the inseparable whole. Each of the elements in particular, and all of them in unison contribute to the impact of the whole.
Thus, in the structure of a literary work it is possible to single out two major layers: the FORMAL one and the POETIC one. In each of those there are two levels. The first level of the formal layer consists of lexical, syntactical and phono-graphical characteristics of the text. Components of the first level make up those of the second level. The lexical items together with tropes, key words help to present the described objects from a particular angle of vision (or context). The syntactical means (repetition, inversion, the length and structures of sentences, etc.) indicate poetic details and symbols. Punctuation, concentration of long/short vowels, sound symbolism create rhythmical pattern of the text.

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