Tuesday 19 March 2019

Summary of critical methods of close textual reading

Narratology explores how narration, time, thought, speech and ‘focalisation’ are presented: eg flash backs/forwards, first person/omniscient, explicit tagging or indirect discourse, covert authoritorial voice, reveal-conceal key to ‘unfolding’ etc

Prosody shows how authors try to create or emphasise meaning through sound: eg rhythm, repetition, parallelism, long-short variation, assonance, alliteration,

M.A.K. Halliday tried to show that ‘grammar’ is the servant of context, genre, and the intention of people to be meaningful within their social contexts of living, speaking, writing, listening, reading. We can try to find those contexts.

Study of Rhetoric shows us that knowingly or not, writers use classic and religious rhetorical forms at the different levels of phrases, sentences, scenes, dialogue, tone, literary form. Sam Leith has an excellent book on it.

Intertextuality shows how writers and readers construct meaning out of the repertoire of texts they have in their minds. This repertoire is socially constructed from the milieus that specific readers and writers live in .

Stylistics is a catch-all name for any aspect of what might be described as the style of a text at whatever level eg the use or non-use of figurative language, of digression, of specified types of allusion, register(s), use of discourse markers etc

If we draw attention to a lexical field in a text, it shows us the author's focus and it may show intentional patterns, themes, motifs at work. 

Flow is a way of describing one aspect of response. It can refer to our changing emotions towards characters, scenes, outcomes.

Ideology in texts is created out of narratology, stylistics, prosody, intertextuality and rhetoric. Follow the contexts and genres of these from M.A.K. Halliday and John Stephens and we find ideology is not simply ‘what is written ‘ but *how* and *why*.

Getting meaning from texts is not an objective act. It is always socially constructed and socially mediated and framed. This social aspect is always historical, full of the ongoing contested meanings created over time.

Canonicity is the means by which the circulation of texts is controlled and regulated. It’s how hierarchies are made. There are ideologies in the process of how canons are created.

Once we see how methods of imposing normative processes on interpretation are at work we can talk of ‘queering’ these in many different ways. We might find that there has been ‘queering’ of the normative in classic texts eg Viola/Caesario played by a boy.

Decolonisation of texts is to dissect how colonial, imperial and racial power is enacted at any or all levels of eg narratology, stylistics, rhetoric, intertextuality, and *outcome* of events in the action (diegesis) eg who or what is affirmed/punished.

(I work through some of these in relation to a specific text in my booklet 'Why Write? Why Read?' . The text I look at is the first few pages of 'A Christmas Carol'.)