Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Chaucer's poetic style - addition and association (metonymy) and, and, and - Page 7

Another aspect of "The Redundant Style".
Common speech, and oral verse and prose, tend to proceed, as the above example suggests, by the addition of material and events, rather than by analysis.
For instance, in The General Prologue there are lively character sketches but they are not analytical. One detail is added to another. This is true of the sequence of events in traditional stories.
In general the oral poet is not much interested in causation, because he uses pre-existent underlying patterns and structures.
Whenever you see a series of “ands” you have a additive and non-analytical style. There are few subordinate clauses and every detail seems to be presented with the same prominence. There is, as it were, no perspective. (For instance, the Bible’s –Genesis – on creation).
(Chaucer definitely has a perspective and so does his narrators but there are points in their storytelling that is simply additive.)

Association, more technically called metonymy, is created by, juxtaposition, likeness (metaphor) and connection.

Fundamental for oral poetry and speech, metonymy depends on associations formed by habit (memory and experience)
By metonymy words can be relied on to evoke particular associated accepted ideas and feelings. These words naturally depend on social, moral, and intellectual structures, some of which have been lost.
We therefore may easily overlook the richness of oral poetry because we do not know, or we neglect the social, moral, and intellectual context, which is the associative structure.

Metonymy works with other elements of style.
Although metonymy depends on association and addition, not likeness, to make connections, it may join with likeness contribute towards various kinds of wordplay that characterise oral poetry. For instance, puns where the likeness of sound can have two different meanings, often with comic effect.
As literacy progressed and became dominant from the seventeenth century onwards, puns became despised and other wordplay disliked. Puns are used in Shakespeare but were later regarded as a fault, but were overlooked in Chaucer until recently.

See page two for an explanation of the activites.

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I teach Film, Media and English Lit.