Interpretation Through Self-Access
Иностранные языки, филология и лингвистика
There exist various approached to text interpretation (analysis) but some considerations are common: any analysis is subjective, depending on the thesaurus, age of the person and time, and no analysis may be considered either complete (it is a so-called open multitude) or ideal.
Н. А. Постоловская
Interpretation Through Self-Access
Министерство образования и науки РФ
Государственное образовательное учреждение
высшего профессионального образования
«Уральский государственный педагогический университет»
Институт иностранных языков
Кафедра английского языка
Постоловская Н. А.
Interpretation Through Self-Access
Постоловская Н. А.
Interpretation through self-access = дидактический материал для самостоятельной подготовки [Текст]: учебное пособие / Н. А. Постоловская; Урал. гос. пед. ун-т Екатеринбург 2010 28 с.
Пособие содержит пояснительный материал, примеры вариантов интерпретации текста и задания для самостоятельной работы.
Пособие предназначено для студентов 5 курса заочного и дневного отделения (специальность 050303 иностранный язык английский) и может быть использовано как для самостоятельной, так и для аудиторной работы.
Постоловская Наталья Алексеевна
Interpetation Through Self-Access
Интерпретация текста. Дидактический материал для самостоятельной подготовки
Макет: Муханова Ю. В.
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Оригинал-макет отпечатан в отделе множительной техники Уральского государственного педагогического университета.
620017, Екатеринбург, просп. Космонавтов, 26
© ГОУ ВПО «Уральский государственный
педагогический университет», 2010
© Постоловская Н. А., 2010
I. Paragraph analysis. Explanatory notes…..…………………………………6
A sample of analysis (from “A Private View)…………………………………………..6
“Just Morgan” (text and tasks)…………………………………………………………….11
“The Captain and the Enemy” (Text and tasks)……………………………………..12
II. Lexical field analysis. Explanatory notes……………………………… .15
“A Private View” (text)………………………………………………………………………..17
A sample of analysis of this text…………………………………………………………..18
Tasks to the text…………………………………………………………………………………19
“Second Skin” (text)…………………………………………………………………………..20
A sample of analysis of this text…………………………………………………………..21
Tasks to the text…………………………………………………………………………………22
III. Comments. Explanatory notes……………………………..………………..22
A sample of comments (“A private View)……………………………………………..24
“A Kiss Before Dying” (text)………………………………………………………………..26
A sample of comments with a task……………………………………………………….27
Данное пособие является результатом многолетней работы над анализом текста, а точнее, над некоторыми вариантами анализа. Цель работы: не дать идеальный анализ текста (которого не существует) и не показать возможность преподавателя, а научить каждого студента дать удовлетворительный вариант интерпретации незнакомого текста, располагая ограниченным временем.
Внимание было уделено только трём вариантам анализа, хотя их, конечно, существует гораздо больше. Часть, посвящённая анализу отдельного параграфа, представлена наиболее подробно и может быть использована студентами заочного отделения, не всегда имеющими возможность посещать аудиторные занятия.
Каждая часть содержит пояснительную записку, пример анализа текста, задания к этому же тексту и дополнительный текст для самостоятельного анализа, что будет одним из составляющих отчёта студента для получения оценки / зачёта.
Материал пособия может быть своего рода планом работы для преподавателя, начинающего заниматься данным аспктом.
При работе были использованы:
Е. Г. Сошальская, В. И. Прохорова. Stylistic Analyses. М.: ВШ, 1976.
И. В. Арнольд. Стилистика современного английского языка. Л.: Просвещение, 1973.
И. В. Арнольд, Н. Я. Дьяконова. Analytical Reading. Л.: Просвещение, 1979.
Peter Verdork. Stylistics. Oxford, 2002
Н. А. Постоловская. Анализ текста. Екатеринбург, 2001.
Paragraph Analysis. Explanatory Notes.
Interpreting the text from various points of view undoubtedly helps a student, and any person in general, to deeper, more clearly understand it. This is acknowledged by every scholar concerned with the subject [1, 2]. This is that interpretation gives a person, enriches him, no doubt.
Interpretation as a subject of the program approaches this from another point: what should a student able to present, to prove to the listeners. In the opinion of more practically oriented teachers it is the following:
There exist various approached to text interpretation (analysis) but some considerations are common: any analysis is subjective, depending on the thesaurus, age of the person and time, and no analysis may be considered either complete (it is a so-called open multitude) or ideal.
In the process of working it was found that the optimal variant of the analysis at the exam is the analysis of a separate paragraph. But that type of analysis includes several stages: 1) the summary; 2) justification of the choice of the part for analysis; 3) analysis proper including quoting and discussing each sentence; 4) conclusion, connected with the beginning of the summary and point 2, that is showing the value of the extracted information for text assessment; 5) personal impression is also welcome. And this is the shortest type of analysis in our opinion and most concrete.
Paragraph analysis may be found in the works of some scholars , but there it is a purely stylistic analysis. The approach of other scholars [2, 4] is based on involving the significance of every language phenomena and elements of pragmatics and socio-linguistics.
The author of the given sample of the teaching experience will make an attempt to present a text analysis according to the variant paragraph analysis.
A Sample of Analysis.
The text (2 pages) is the initial portion of the novel “A Private view” by Anita Brookner (London, 1994). In most cases this is the only information a student gets. But he is free and welcome to come out with his suppositions. Having read the two pages attentively the following might be said:
“A. Brookner, judging by the time and place of publication, is a modern British authoress (“Anita” can hardly be a man), not young, since she is really interested in fortunes of two elderly sufficiently successful clerks. One can suppose that only a mature person may be sympathetic not only to a beautiful young girl in love. But this is only an opinion. The characters are sixtyish (think of the usual time of retirement for men), one of them died of cancer just on the eve of long looked-for happy leisure-time leaving the only friend with money (his legacy) but alone. From the text one learns of the last days of the unfortunate one and the fortunate one trying (in vain) to get rid of his money, though both started their life poor.
The text consists of 4 paragraphs. The first, the biggest may be viewed upon as an exposition. It allows to get acquainted not only with the place (Italy, Niece), time (after the friends death), the main character (a retired clerk, maybe previously connected with finance or law) and with the attitude of the authoress toward him a restrained, not demonstrative sympathy. The latter, besides, reminds one of Galsworthy.
The text is narrative, third person narration. The authors language is sometimes imperceptibly merged with the unuttered represented speech of the character. But to draw a distinct border-line between them is difficult: as it was supposed the age of the author and the character might be more or less the same and the character is evidently sufficiently well-educated (judging by the vocabulary). But this is a questionable, a moot point.
Passing over to the paragraph analysis proper, it should be remarked that the first sentence occupying the initial strong position sets pace, determines the mood, on the one hand, and determines the message/content, on the other.
“George Bland, in the sun, reflected that now was the moment to take stock.”
It is a complex sentence with an object clause. It is rather laconic for a complex sentence, and this fact allows to suppose that the information is of some importance. Both clauses seem neutral. The structure of the principal clause which may be supposed to convey the essence of the message, is peculiar: the detached construction “in the sun” is evidently an elliptical participle construction giving some secondary, additional information. It carries the first hint at some incongruity of the situation: instead of “enjoying, basking, lying etc.” it is followed by the verb that, so-to-say, does not require sunshine. The subordinate clause intensifies a business-like attitude in G.B. Thus the possible conclusion is that G.B. did not experience the emotion of an ordinary Britisher enjoying sunshine, so infrequent at home.
The next sentence supplies quite a lot of details and is, as it may be expected, much longer.
“Nice, a town which he had not visited since his first holiday abroad, some forty years earlier, spread its noise and its light and its air about him, making him feel cautious; he was not up to this, he reckoned, having become unused to leisure.”
One sees the juxtaposition of two bits of information Nice and G.B.s life. These cause opposing emotions either of the character or of the author. The Italian town is not presented as anything desirable: the choice of homogeneous objects “noise, …” which become contextual synonyms speak for it. Moreover they are intensified by anaphoric parallelism, and the repetition of the possessive pronoun “its” makes the emotion obvious it is rejection, hostility mingled with contempt for a world of famous Italian beauty. The attitude to G.B. is different. If in his youth (40 years earlier) G.B. had his holiday abroad (possibly thanks to his parents) later he had become not only unused to having a rest, but also somewhat afraid of it. The adjective “cautious” may have various interpretations. The choice of the word “reckoned” and the combination “was not up to this” stresses it. Attention should be paid to the morphological aspect of the participle “unused” (for further consideration).
One can also trace a connection with the first sentence due to the words dealing with time: “now” vs. “forty years earlier”, which will continue through the paragraph and the whole text, and will stress another apposition (now then).
The next sentence continues to detalize the fact of not enjoying leisure.
“He had been here for four days and had found nothing to do, although there was much to occupy his thoughts, most of them, indeed all of them, proving unwelcome.”
The sentence is linked with the previous ones through the synonym to the word “leisure” “nothing to do” and through developing the theme of thought: “reflected”, “reckoned”, “thoughts”. The significance of the sentence is mostly emotive, since not much new information is added. The emotional character becomes evident due to a climatic repetition “most of them, indeed all of them” intensified by the epiphora in its background function and the intensifier “indeed”. Attention should be paid to the word in the final strong position “unwelcome”. It might be considered a typical, for an elderly Britisher, desire not to be too categorical, a habitual modesty of expression. Juxtapose it with “unused” in the previous sentence. Past Perfect at the beginning stresses the finality of decision for which four days were enough. The theme is further enriched.
The next sentence is again more emotional than informative.
“Nice had been an unwise choice, though in truth hardly a choice at all; it had been more of a flight from those same thoughts, which faithfully continued to attend him here.”
The new information concerns a very urgent desire to get rid of the unwelcome thoughts. The urgency is emotionally stressed: the word “flight”; another case of repetition (simple lexical in this case) of the word “choice”, the subordinate clause of concession (though…), the synonymous pronouns “those same” and the end of the sentence which might be considered a case of personifying the thoughts (though the traditional capitalization of the personified element is missing possible this is a modern tendency). The attribute of the predicative “unwise” continues the line of “un“- words, intensifying the effect of modesty of expression.
The following very complicated structurally and very long sentence is mostly informative and very emotional at the same time.
“He had sought a restorative, conventional enough, after the death of an old friend, Michael Putnam, who had inconveniently succumbed to cancer just when they were enabled, by process of evolution, or by that of virtue rewarded, more prosaically by the fact of their simultaneous retirement, to take their ease, to explore the world together, as had been their intention.”
The explanation of the preceding is given, the reason of unwelcome thoughts, inability to enjoy life. Another emotional aspect becomes obvious bitter irony the target of which is G.B. himself. The sentence might be considered the characters inner speech. The modesty of expression is felt in the periphrasis; the homogeneous prepositional objects (by…) are presented as parallel periphrases which sound as bitter jokes at ones hopes to enjoy leisure (take their ease) at last.
The final sentence of the paragraph, unlike the previous ones, evidently belongs to the authors narrative, the more so that the second clause of the compound sentence presents a philosophical digression (attention should be paid to the shift from Past and Past Perfect to the Present).
“They had waited for too long and the result was this hiatus, and the reflection that time and patience may bring poor rewards, that time itself, if not confronted at the appropriate juncture, can play sly tricks, and, more significantly, that those who do not act are not infrequently acted upon.”
As befits a philosophical utterance which is supposed to teach some moral the digression sounds rhythmical due to 3 homogeneous clauses introduced by anaphoric “that”. The first subordinate clause is remarkable thanks to a paradoxical assertion: time and patience are not rewarded. In the second subordinate clause the notion of time is intensified by a personification (note that “time” has already been mentioned in this discussion). In the third clause “time” is implicitly the doer of the action in the passive construction. Returning to the principal clause of this complex sentence attention is attracted by the homogeneous predicatives “hiatus” and “reflection”. The first might be approximately interpreted as a “pause”. In this case the two would be synonymous and connected with the process of thinking. But it (hiatus) might also be understood as “gap”, then it would be connected with G.B.s life.
The first clause of this long compound sentence is the answer, result of “taking stock” of the beginning. This one allows to consider the paragraph under analysis balanced: since in a balanced paragraph there is a sure connection between the initial and the final sentences, be it repetition, detalization, opposition/denial or, as in this case, an answer to the question implied in “to take stock”. The character of the paragraph once more proves a certain link between the author of the end of the XX c. and those of the beginning (Galsworthy, Mansfield) or even Dickens.
The impression produced by the paragraph is strong. The tragic situation is enhanced by a studied reticence and modesty of expression: by the number of “un”-words concluded by the litotes in the last clause, almost the final strong position and sad irony.
After this has been said a kind of resume if necessary.
What points should be discussed and what better not? Beginning with the end: any indication of size, syntactical aspect and enumeration of the recognized phenomena without any connection with the significance for the text and the effect produced. Desirable for commenting are any language facts grammatical, lexicological, stylistic, phono-stylistic preceded by stating the above mentioned effect. One should bear in mind that any language fact, so-called “expressive means” [Galperin I. R.] has in the text one of the possible (for this fact) messages. This message, effect should be stated and discussed. Stylistics (stylistic devices)  does play its role but any interpretation of the text is not an exercise of discovering and simple mentioning, enumerating Stylistic Devices. Any lucky “discovery” of a stylistic device should in the analysis come only after the value of it for the text understanding was made clear.
JUST MORGAN by Susan BethPfeffer
New York, 1970
My parents died in early May of my ninth-grade year at Fairfield. I was called into the headmistress's office that afternoon, without knowing why. Mrs. Baines told me herself, interspersing it with "my poor child" and "my dear Morgan," which struck me as being even odder than the news. I felt nothing at the time, not even fear at what was to become of me; I suppose it was because their deaths were so unexpected. It had been in an accident of some sort, while they were in Rome. Mrs. Baines didn't have all the details, and I never chose to ask anybody, so I still don't know exactly what happened. While I sat there trying to understand everything, with Mrs. Baines offering me smelling salts and some aspirin (I think she was disappointed at my lack of histrionics), my uncle called the school to find out whether I would be able to miss a few days for the funeral. "Certainly, certainly," the headmistress clucked. Their bodies, it seemed, were being flown in, and the funeral would be that Saturday. I asked if it would be all right for me to finish out that week in school before going to New York, and staring at me Mrs. Baines whispered something to my uncle about my being in a state of shock. It was decided therefore that I would leave the next day for New York by train and that either my uncle or his secretary, or both, would be at the station to pick me up. Mrs. Baines assured me that I did not have to return to classes that day; instead, she recommended, I should go back to my room and try to sleep. If I wanted to speak to a minister of my faith, she said, she would call one up. I thanked her, said it wasn't necessary, thanked her again, and walked the distance to my room, with my thoughts alternating between "Dead?" and "What about the history test on Friday?"
Sitting on my bed, torn between the desire to tell my roommate, who was in class, what had happened, and a sense of guilt that all I felt was the desire to tell her, I was hit by the enormity of my parents' death for the first time. I was an orphan. The school had a number of them and they all seemed perfectly normal and happy, so I couldn't see worrying about a life filled with doom and despair. Nor could I really mourn 'my parents' death the way Mrs. Baines had expected me to. For one thing, I scarcely knew them. During the school year I went to Fairfield, and in the summers I was sent to different camps. My encounters with Mother and Father had occurred mostly during winter recesses, when I would fly to wherever they were located that year, or, less frequently, they would fly to America and I would join them in New York. Such visits were more embarrassing than anything else, with my parents showering me with useless gifts and loosely aimed kisses on my cheeks, and me reciprocating with handmade Christmas cards I had knocked off one period in Creative Arts, that generally started off Joyeux Noel and ended up with Love, Morgan since I assumed it was expected of me to say it. They made a great fuss about showing off the cards at all the parties they went to, much to my embarrassment, and those friends of theirs that I met nearly always came up to me saying, "So you're the little girl who made that fine Christmas card for your mommy and daddy." I hated their friends and their parties and the visits, and if I didn't hate them it was only because I saw them so little. Other than that, our exchanges were by mail, or very infrequently by transatlantic phone calls, on ceremonial occasions like my birthday. I didn't think I would miss them very much.
accident, histrionics, bodies, faith, still, normal, encounter, reciprocating, embarrassment, ceremonial
THE CAPTAIN AND THE ENEMY (by Graham Greene)
I am now in my twenty-second year and yet the only birthday which I can clearly distinguish among all the rest is my twelfth, for it was on that damp and misty day in September I met the Captain for the first time. I can still remember the wetness of the gravel under my gym shoes in the school quad and how the blown leaves made the cloisters by the chapel slippery as I ran recklessly to escape from my enemies between one class and the next. I slithered and came to an abrupt halt while my pursuers went whistling away, because there in the middle of the quad stood our formidable headmaster talking to a tall man in a bowler hat, a rare sight already at that date, so that he looked a little like an actor in costume an impression not so far wrong, for I never saw him in a bowler hat again. He carried a walking stick over his shoulder at the slope like a soldier with a rifle. I had no idea who he might be, nor, of course, did I know how he had won me the previous night, or so he was to claim, in a backgammon game with my father.
I slid so far that I landed on my knees at the two men's feet, and when I picked myself up the headmaster was glaring at me from under his heavy eyebrows. I heard him say, 'I think this is the one you want Baxter Three. Are you Baxter Three?'
'Yes, sir, I said.
The man, whom I would never come to know by any more permanent name than the Captain, said, 'What does Three indicate?'
'He is the youngest of three Baxters,' the headmaster said, 'but not one of them is related by blood.'
That puts me in a bit of a quandary,' the Captain said. 'For which of them is the Baxter I want? The Christian name, unlikely as it may sound, is Victor. Victor Baxter the names don't pair very well.'
'We have little occasion here for Christian names. Arc you called Victor Baxter? the headmaster inquired of me sharply.
'Yes, sir,' I said after some hesitation, for I was reluctant to admit to a name which I had tried unsuccessfully to conceal from my fellows. I knew very well that Victor for some obscure reason was one of the unacceptable names, like Vincent or Marmaduke.
'Well then, I suppose that this is the Baxter you want, sir. Your face needs washing, boy.'
The stern morality of the school prevented me from telling the headmaster that it had been quite clean until my enemies had splashed it with ink. I saw the Captain regarding me with brown, friendly and what I came to learn later from hearsay, unreliable eyes. He had such deep black hair that it might well have been dyed and a long thin nose which reminded me of a pair of scissors left partly ajar, as though his nose was preparing to trim the military moustache just below it. I thought that he winked at me, but I could hardly believe it. In my experience grown-ups did not wink, except at each other.
This gentleman is an old boy, Baxter,' the headmaster said, 'a contemporary of your father's he tells me.
'He has asked permission to take you out this afternoon. He has brought me a note from your father, and as today is a half-holiday, I see no reason why I shouldn't give my consent, but you must be back at your house by six. He understands that.'
*You can go now.'
I turned my back and began to make for the classroom where I was overdue.
'I meant go with this gentleman, Baxter Three. What class do you miss?
'He means Divinity,' the headmaster told the Captain. He glared at the door across the quad from which wild sounds were emerging, and he swept his black gown back over his shoulder. 'From what I can hear you will miss little by not attending.' He began to make great muffled strides towards the door. His boots he always wore boots made no more sound than carpet slippers.
'What's going on in there? the Captain asked.
'I think they are slaying the Amalekitcs,' I said.
'Are you an Amalekite? '
'Then we'd better be off.'
He was a stranger, but I felt no fear of him at all. Strangers were not dangerous. They had no such power as the headmaster or my fellow pupils. A stranger is not a permanency. One can easily shed a stranger. My mother had died a few years back I could not even then have said how long before; time treads at quite a different pace when one is a child. I had seen her on her deathbed, pale and calm, like a figure on a tomb, and when she hadn't responded to my formal kiss on her forehead, I realized with no great shock of grief that she had gone to join the angels. At that time, before I went to school, my only fear was of my father who, according to what my mother told me, had long since attached himself to the opposing party up there where she had gone. 'Your father is a devil,' she was very fond of telling me, and her eyes would lose their habitual boredom and light suddenly up for a moment like a gas cooker.
My father, I do remember that, came to the funeral dressed top to toe m black; he had a beard which went well with the suit, and I looked for the tail under his coat, but I couldn't perceive one, although this did little to reassure me. I had not seen him very often before the day of the funeral, nor after, for he seldom came to my home, if you could call the flat in a semidetached house named The Laurels near Richmond Park where I began to live after my mother's death, a home. It was at the buffet party, which followed the funeral that I now believe he plied my mother's sister with sherry until she promised to provide a shelter for me during the school holidays.
My aunt was quite an agreeable but very boring woman and understandably she had never married. She too referred to my father as the Devil on the few occasions when she spoke of him, and I began to feel a distinct respect for him, even though I feared him, for to have a devil in the family was after all a kind of distinction. An angel one had to take on trust, but the Devil in the words of my prayer book 'roamed the world like a raging lion', which made me think that perhaps it was for that reason my father spent so much more time in Africa than in Richmond. Now after so many years have passed I begin to wonder whether he was not quite a good man in his own way, something which I would hesitate to say of the Captain who had won me from him at backgammon, or so he said.
Lexical Field analysis. Explanatory Notes
LFA is based mainly on the approach of I. V. Arnold and includes some elements of Stylistic of Decoding. It concentrates on practical, detailed study of texts or their parts, sometimes being unaware of the authors personality and the authors individual style. Somewhat seemingly mechanical technique of stylistic analysis does not in the least exclude intuition and personal judgment of the student, and makes this type of analysis as any very subjective. Much depends on the thesaurus, degree/level of ones knowledge of the language and literature, ones aesthetic preferences (but this is true for any type of analysis).
This type of analysis may be used in any text, but best suited to it (in our opinion) would be 1) heterogeneous texts with numerous short paragraphs which will hardly be good for paragraph analysis; 2) comparatively short linguistically complicated texts offering lots of ideas; 3) poetic samples (preferred by I. V. Arnold); 4) essays or epistolary texts lacking a discernable plot.
A possible plan of discussion will be:
1) a summary with its usual constituents, but with an emphasis not only on the gist but on the idea of the text which student will prove in the process of the analysis;
2) an approximate/subjective innumerating of the most obvious themes/lexical fields;
3) establishing their hierarchy (principal, interdependent, background) in the process of the analysis these suppositions prompted by intuition, may undergo some changes.
The analysis begins with the best represented LF, including the greatest number of lexical units (LU), connected directly (derivatives, synonyms, antonyms) and through associations (constant and casual). It is recommended to mark for oneself the number of LU, but offer to your listenes not more than three or four.
One should dwell on the predominant evaluative, emotive and stylistic connotations of the LF in general paying attention to the contextually acquired evaluative and emotive connotations. LUs falling out of the general picture should be commented on separately.
To avoid a mechanical innumeration of facts special attention should be paid to the following: each statement should be followed by the student assessing its significance for a more propound understanding of the text in general and the before mentioned (in the summary) idea in particular.
The next step is stating the means of foregrounding of the theme (strong position, semantic repetition, contrast on the level of denotations and connotations, convergence, defeated expectancy etc). The means of foregrounding should be juxtaposed with those of related LFs: the more means of foregrounding, the greater is the significance of the LF for understanding of the text.
The conclusion should contain confirming or alterating the preliminary supposition, the final variant of the ided and the gist is given.
P.S. The so-called background theme is usually charactereged by the neutrality of evaluative and emotive connotations.
After the discussion of the principle theme of the text one may say that it convincingly confirms the suppositions about the authoress: she is not a young person, she is inclined for philosophical generalizations. They are reflected in the digression which might be considered the idea of the text.
A PRIVATE VIEW (by Anita Brookner)
George Bland, in the sun, reflected that now was the moment to take stock. Nice, a town which he had not visited since his first holiday abroad, some forty years earlier, spread its noise and its light and its air about him, making him feel cautious; he was not up to this, he reckoned, having become unused to leisure. He had been here for four days and had found nothing to do, although there was much to occupy his thoughts, most of them, indeed all of them, proving unwelcome. Nice had been an unwise choice, though in truth hardly a choice at all; it had been more of a flight from those same thoughts, which faithfully continued to attend him here. He had sought a restorative, conventional enough, after the death of an old friend, Michael Putnam, who had inconveniently succumbed to cancer just when they were enabled, by process of evolution, or by that of virtue rewarded, more prosaically by the fact of their simultaneous retirement, to take their ease, to explore the world together, as had been their intention. They had waited for too long, and the result was this hiatus, and the reflection that time and patience may bring poor rewards, that time itself, if not confronted at the appropriate juncture, can play sly tricks, and, more significantly, that those who do not act are not infrequently acted upon.
His friend Putnam, whom he sorely missed, had left him a quite respectable sum of money, which, added to his own capital, made of him a fairly wealthy man. The irony of this did not escape him, for he had started out poor, and poverty was imprinted on his mind and no doubt in his heart. If he were spending freely now it was in an effort to get rid of some of his money and in so doing to allay the pain of Putnam's death. Yet the incongruity displeased him. Seated in an expensive restaurant - as it might be Le Chantecler all he could remember was his last sight of Putnam, skeletal hand clutching the latest of a series of Get Well cards from former colleagues, great eyes turning to the window in shock and doubt, then turning back to his friend with a look that was timid, wistful, almost eager, for he had trusted in life right up to the end. That the look had to be met, sustained; this was not easy. In lime it had proved almost unbearable, but the effort was made, day after day, until, at the end of a mere three weeks, the eyes had closed forever.
Bland was shaken by his death, had sought comfort in late out-of-season sunshine, which now struck him as garish. No one, he thought, could understand their friendship, as they themselves had understood it. Both unmarried, they somehow did not impress the outside world as lovers, yet their closeness was remarked upon, puzzled over. In fact, what they had in common was their origin in shabby beginnings and their slow upward rise to middle-class affluence. This was their gleeful rueful secret. Lunching together on a Sunday at the club, or at one of the better London hotels, they might test each other with a brand name with which to conjure the past. Both appreciated sweet food and strong tea. Both, before making a purchase, had the same instinctive reaction: Is this allowed?
Sharing the past, any past, but particularly their own, made it more comfortable. Now that he was alone Bland found the present irksome, shot through with a sadness he had not previously suspected. And this was not merely the sadness of Putnam's death, for that was more properly grief, but a sadness for the life they had lived through together, keeping up each other's spirits, applauding in each other the middle-class virtues which, to their surprise, had come to them quite naturally, so that from an initial bedrock of misgiving and suspicion had flowered charity and judicious
benevolence and a hard-won fair-mindedness. He had loved Putnam; now that Putnam was dead, he, George Bland, felt half dead himself.
«A Private View» Lexical Field Analysis
Summary (The beginning will coincide with the one offered at the part dedicated to paragraph analysis, but there will be some additions and alterations after the conclusion of the discussion of one LF. They will concern the author and the idea of the text).
At first sight the LFs of the text, mentioned in the seemingly obvious order will be Death, Friendship, Money, Time and Nice as a purely background theme. The first two are surely interconnected.
A closer inspection of the text based on the consideration of the strong positions of this (not speaking about the title) will show the presence of «now» in the initial and final sentences. Besides, the authors digression «… time itself…can play…» may be considered another strong position of the text and, moreover, contain the idea. So the seemingly obvious hie zachy was erroneous.
«Time» is the theme that connects and permeates all the rest. The mention of the word itself, its periods (forty years, days, weeks etc), the constant opposition: «now-then», the digression all point at the direct connection with the theme. Connected through associations are, after all, most of the LUs of other themes, including the supposedly background «Nice» (the evaluative connotations of the word are opposed depending on «now» «then»). The emphasis on Past Perfect is another means attracting ones attention to the time opposition.
Speaking about the connotations the student should keep to the following scheme (the order can be different):
P. S. One can also speak of expressive connotations, but they are most subjective. The three mentioned above are more easily discernible.
The means of foregrounding of the theme «Time» are:
The analysis of a seemingly newtral and “innocent” (as compared, say, with “death”) theme “Time” gives the clue to the course of G.B.s disquiet: he is forced to live in two-times simultaneously. This proves unbearable as it would be for any person. But this is but “a private view”.
Second Skin (by Caroline Castle Hicks)
New York 1998
I looked on child rearing not only as a work of love and dity but as a profession that was fully as interesting and challenging as any honorable profession in the world, and one that demanded the best I could bring to it.
My favorite pair of old jeans will never fit me again. I have finally accepted this immutable truth. After nurturing and giving birth to two babies, my body had undergone a metamorphosis. I may have returned to my pre-baby weight, but subtle shifts and expansions have taken place my own version of continental drift. As a teenager, I never understood the difference between junior and misses sizing; misses clothing just looked old. Now it is all too clear that wasp waists and micro-fannies are but the fleeting trappings of youth. But thats okay, because while the jeans no longer button, the life I exchanged for them fits better than they ever did.
For me, this is a barefoot, shorts and T-shirts time of life. I have slipped so easily into young motherhood; it is most comfortable role I have ever worn. No tough seams, no snagging zippers. Just a feeling that I have stepped out of the dressing room in something that finally feels right.
I love the feel of this baby on my hip, his soft head a perfect fit under my chin, his tiny hands splayed out like small pink starfish against my arms. I love the way my eight-year-old daughter walks alongside us as we cross the grocery stores sunny parking lot. On gorgeous spring days, the breeze lifts her wispy ponytail, and we laugh at how the sunshine makes the baby sniff and squint. I am constantly reaching out to touch them, the way a seamstress would two lengths of perfect silk, envisioning what might be made from them, yet hesitant to alter them, to lose the weight of their wholeness in my hands.
On those rare mornings when I wake up before they do, I go into their rooms and watch them sleeping, their faces creased and rosy. Finally, they squirm and stretch themselves awake, reaching out for a hug. I gather them up, bury my face in them and breathe deeply. They are like towels just pulled from the dryer, tumbled warm and cottony.
Sometimes, I follow the sound of girlish voices to my daughters room, where she and her friends play dress-up, knee-deep in garage-sale chiffon, trying life on for size. Fussing and preening in front of the mirror, they drape themselves in cheap beads and adjust tiaras made of sequins and cardboard. I watch these little girls with their lank, shiny hair that no rubber bands or barrettes seem able to tame. They are constantly pushing errant strands behind their ears, and in that grown-up gesture, I see glimpses of the women they will become. I know that too soon these clouds of organdy and lace will settle permanently into their battered boxes, the ones that have served as treasure chests and princess thrones. They will become the hand-me-downs of my daughters girlhood, handed back to me.
For now, though, my children curl around me on the sofa in the evening, often falling asleep, limbs limp and soft against me like the folds of a well-worn nightgown. For now, we still adorn each other, and they are content to be clothed in my embrace. I know there will be times that will wear like scratchy wool sweaters and four-inch heels. We will have to try on new looks together, tugging and scrunching, trying to keep the basic fabric intact. By then, we will have woven a complicated tapestry with its own peculiar pattern, its snags and pulls and tears.
But I will not forget this time, of drowsy heads against my shoulder, of footy pajamas and mother-daughter dresses, of small hands clasped in mine. This time fits me. I plan to wear it well.
A Sample of Analysis of This Text
The text is an essay «a literary composition in prose and very short» (Concise Oxford Dictionary); «a short piece of literature in which a writer gives his or her thoughts on a particular subject usually in a graceful and pleasing style» (Longmans Dictionary of English Language and Culture) evidently on the subject of motherhood (this may be considered the gist) and the paramount importance of it (which may be considered as one of the ideas).
The authoress is a contemporary (judging by the year of publication) American (according to the place of publication), writer, concerned with joys and cares of motherhood. It might be supposed that the essay is in a way autobiographical.
The gist and one of the ideas were mentioned above. The facts the reader gets are not many: clothes (fitting or not), two girls that will grow into adulthood in their turn.
The obvious LFs are Clothes, Happiness, Time, Children. The peculiarity of this essay is the presence of an epigraph. Any epigraph directly or by throng associations is connected with the idea of the text (as the author sees it). This epigraph is rather long for its kind and does not need any interpretation. It speaks quite clearly of the honourable profession of a Mother.
The lexical layer of the text as is expected of an essay is literary colloquial, at places sounding intimate.
If one does not pay attention to the epigraph, beginning with the strong position of the title, the initial strong position (1st sentence) and the final strong position of the text (the word «wear» in the last sentence) the text deals with clothes. The number of the LUs belonging to it is overwhelming. The seemingly paradoxical fact is the following: the text is evidently dedicated to the joys of motherhood and Clothes should be a background theme. Everything becomes logical if the title is understood as a metonymy/metaphor: «second skin» = a perfectly filling dress (a metonymy), clothes as indicators of time (a metaphor). The interconnection between the LFs Clothes, Time, Motherhood becomes obvious. LUs Clothes and Time are inseparable («shorts and T-shirt time of life», «times that will wear like scratchy wool sweaters» etc). «Time» as a LF is all embracing: past, present and future. The stylistic connotations of the LUs belonging to all three are similar: most of the Time/Clothes units belong to the colloquial layer of the vocabulary.
The evaluative connotations are slightly different: «fleeting trappings of youth», «tough seams», «snagging zippers» referring to the past are more negative than «something that finally feels right», «two lengths of perfect silk» etc referring to the present which are positive.
The group of LUs referring to the future has rather uncertain evaluative connotations, but the emotive ones allow to feel the narrators hope for the better: «we will have woven a complicated tapestry…»
The emotive connotations of the first two groups are different conveying slight irony for the past («my own version of continental drift») and satisfaction with the present («This time fits me. I plan to wear it well»).
The LF of Time/Clothes is foregrounded first of all through a dense convergence: metonymy, metaphors, similes, epithets etc, mostly lexico-grammatical SDs.
The discussion of this LF confirms the fact that the text is an essay very personal, graceful and pleasing.
1) Find in the texts 3 LUs connected with the theme Motherhood directly;
2) 3-through constant and 3-through casual associations. Speak of the 3 types of connotations of each group.
Comments. Explanatory Notes
Comments is the type of analysis students try to present if they are not willing or uncapable to cope with the two previously discussed variants.
«Comments», «to comment» is defined in dictionaries as «explanatory notes», «written or spoken opinion, explanations, or judgement made about»…, «to make a comment, give an opinion»… The very definition supposes a somewhat literary approach to the text. Students interpret it as periphasing the text, i.e. present a variant of retelling supplied at best with two or three linguistic/stylistic remarks.
A classical variant of Comments can be found in «Analytical Reading» and «Three Centuries of English Prose» by I. V. Arnold and N. Y. Diakonova (Leningrad, 1962, 1963, 1964).
Students, even if they possess the scope of information literary and linguistic are limited by time.
Here is an attempt to recommend a greatly clipped variant of Comments which will answer the requirements or purposes (very down-to-earth, prosaic, pragmatic) of text interpretation in the graduation course: to demonstrate ones ability of speaking English sufficiently well and to prove ones ability recognize and assess some elements of the theoretical courses covered.
Two variants are suggested.
I. 1) «placing» the text saying if it is a complete work or an excerpt (if it is an excerpt, speaking about its role in a bigger work).
2) Stating the genre (from the point of view of the plot and of the manner).
3) Introducing the author (using either facts or ones imagination) as to the period, country, degree of being prolific or not, the intended audience, interests.
4) Innumerating the facts becoming clear because of the text.
5) State the predominant impression, the mood the text produces.
6) Give the proofs, illustrations of how, due to what linguistic means it (the mood) becomes obvious (a prosaic recommendation: a) there should be 4-6 illustrations; b) do not begin retelling the text).
7) Make a conclusion. Usually any conclusion is connected with the beginning. It is possible to connect it with points 1, 2, 3.
II. The second variety of comments may include the same points 1, 2, 3. The next points would be different.
4) Give the gist of the text in 1-2 sentences (avoid names and details).
5) Divide the text into parts, single out dialogue or represented speech.
6) Deal with parts as a succession: show their interdependence, means of connection. From each part single out 1-2 linguistically interesting facts and speak of them, emphasizing their significance for the contents, gist, idea. Speaking of SDs keep to the scheme: a) the effect, b) quotation, c) name of the SD (in case you forget it, just «a word combination»). b) and c) are interchangeable. The «effect» would not let you forget the significance.
7) Make a conclusion (as in variant I).
The comments on the text «A Private View» belongs to the second variant. The difference is in the number of linguo-stylistic facts that are discussed. They are, of course, too many for a student. The comments is an illustration of what might (or should) attract ones attention. Reproducing this at the lesson a student will easily do the “desirable substraction”.
Comments. Second Variant
The novel “A Private View” is one of the latest works of a writer of considerable renown Anita Brookner who is a winner of several prizes.
Essentially belonging to the first half of the XXth century (b. 1928) she combines traditional form of psychological study with a certain incisiveness of the end of the century and manages to mingle depressing reminiscences of an elderly civil servant with shrewd observations not devoid of touches of irony.
Critics say that “A Private View” is the story of a man in emotional turmoil. …In George Bland Brookner presents her most accomplished portrait of moral vulnerability. Modest, reliable and decorous throughout his life, George Bland faces retirement with uncertainty compounded by the early death of his friend Putnam, condemning him to unwonted solitude.”
From the initial four paragraphs of the novel the reader learns that the place of the action is Nice a famous place for a holiday abroad, supposed to pleasure the monied ones with its sunlight, spread and noise, its late autumn “out-of-season” charm. But Nice as such is of no importance: the choice “an unwise one or no choice at all” may be explained by Blands visiting it forty years ago. At present he does not perceive it as anything special “Sitting in an expensive restaurant as it might be Le Chantecleur”. Living there for only four days made him “cautious”. This is unexpected as unexpected is his desire “to get rid of some of his money”. If the second is perfectly achievable in a place like this, that which is most important for him escaping the bitter thoughts about his deceased friend proved impossible. With a touch of irony Brookner says that they “faithfully continued to attend” Bland in Nice. The combination “faithfully … to attend” is surely an understatement. The fact might be rendered as “haunted”, or “persistently annoyed”, but a much milder form is chosen by the author, nevertheless concentrating the readers attention on those, in a way personified thoughts. The particular significance of thoughts, reminiscences becomes obvious due to various types of repetition of the word: simple lexical, through pronouns and synonymic repetition. The epithet “unwelcome” in the final strong position in the sentence is another instance of a peculiar, typical of elderly Britishers, preference for modesty of expression. This modesty sometimes results in sad humour: the fact of his friends death of cancer is presented in a much milder way “inconveniently succumbed to cancer”.
As it is typical of many classics of realist tradition Brookners writing is a blend of the authors narration and represented speech. The latter allows the reader to form his own opinion about the personage without the author pressing his/her own view. The thoughts and reminiscences come as though by themselves.
To tell the two planes the plane of the author and that of the character one from the other is sometimes almost impossible, both grammatically past tense and a third person narration and lexically, since the age and cultural level both of Brookner and her character are nearly identical. The only thing that might be of any help here is the emotional colouring of some passages. But the philosophical digression concerning the “sly tricks” played by time might be ascribed to both.
The first paragraph sounds pretty dry and matter-of-fact. But the next one is pathetic. The tragic effect is achieved by mentioning “the incongruity”, the ironic trick of fate: a man who had started poor, poverty affecting his thoughts and feelings “imprinted on his mind and … in his heart” can, in the long last, spend his money freely and … is unable to enjoy it. His friends death is persistently standing before his minds eye.
The theme “death” is quite obvious due to the presence of: “sorely missed”, “pain”, “death”, “skeletal hand”, “clutching”, “a series of God Well cards”, “trusted in life right up to the end”, “the eyes had closed for ever”.
For Bland these weeks were “not easy”, “almost unbearable” the modesty of expression, the desire not to lay stress on emotions are here again.
The part devoted to the friends closeness and perfect understanding is given in the form of represented speech easily recognizable because of the presence of the introductory “the thought” and lexically. The words evidently belonging to the characters vocabulary are obvious. The fact of being poor is treated rather contemptuously “shabby beginnings” and preferably not alluded to later on “their gleeful rueful secret”. The epithets are not quite antonymous, so the contribution is not oxymoronic. The second epithet “rueful” = expressing mock compassion is further on made clear by the text. The friends having slowly achieved “affluence” note the limiting attribute and able to afford club membership and dinners at better hotels “conjure” their past mentioning evidently the cheapest brands of wines. Anaphoric repetition of “Both” combined with parallel constructions stresses their affinity. Brookner is a fine psychologist: people who had achieved their goal “middle class affluence” enjoy recollecting their less fortunate past. Equally psychologically true is the attitude of people originally belonging to lower walks of life to the virtues of middle class. Remarkable is the evolution: from “misgiving”, “suspicion”, “applauding them in his friend” to “charity”, “benevolence”, and “fair-mindeness that had come to them quite naturally” as they were becoming richer. It should be noted though that the last two virtues are limited by attributes “judicious” and “hard won”. Evidently charity is not an exclusively middle-class virtue.
The final sentence of the portion together with “to take stock” frames the text. Though it is but a part of a bigger work, it might be taken as a psychological story with the typical static character and open-plot structure.
By way of summing up it is necessary to repeat that Anita Brookner is a true follower in the best realist tradition in English literature, a writer with a sharp eye for detail and keen psychologism. There is something in her manner resembling both Katherine Mansfield and John Galsworthy.
A Kiss Before Dying (by Ira Levin)
He was born in Menasset, on the outskirts of Fall River, Massachusetts; the only child of a father who was an oiler in one of the Fall River textile mills and a mother who sometimes had to take in sewing when the money ran low. They were of English extraction with some French intermixed along the way, and they lived in a neighbourhood populated largely by Portuguese. His father found no reason to be bothered by this, but his mother did. She was a bitter and unhappy woman who had married young, expecting her husband to make more of himself than a mere oiler.
At an early age he became conscious of his good looks. On Sundays guests would come and exclaim over him the blondness of his hair, the clear blue of his eyes but his father was always there, shaking his head admonishingly at the guests. His parents argued a great deal, usually over the time and money his mother devoted to dressing him.
Because his mother had never encouraged him to play with the children of the neighbourhood, his first few days at school were an agony of insecurity. He was suddenly an anonymous member of a large group of boys, some of whom made fun of the perfection of his clothes had the obvious care he took to avoid the puddles in the school yard. One day, when he could bear it no longer, he went up to the ringleader of the hazers had spat on his shoes. The ensuing fight was brief but wild, and at the end of it he had the ringleader flat on his back and was kneeling on his chest, banging his head against the ground again and again. A teacher came running and broke up the fight. After that, everything was all right. Eventually he accepted the ringleader as one of his friends.
His marks in school were good, which made his mother glow and even won reluctant praise from his father. His marks became still better when he started sitting next to an unattractive but brilliant girl who was so beholden to him for some awkward cloakroom kisses that she neglected to cover her paper during examinations.
His school-days were the happiest of his life; the girls liked him for his looks and charm; the teachers liked him because he was polite and attentive, nodding when they stated important facts, smiling when they attempted jokes; and to the boys he showed his dislike of both girls and teachers just enough so that they liked him too. At home, he was a god. His father finally gave in and joined his mother in deferent admiration.
When he started dating, it was with the girls from the better part of the town. His parents argued again, over his allowance and the amount of money spent on his clothes. The arguments were short though, his father only sparring half-heartedly. His mother began to talk about his marrying a rich mans daughter. She only said it jokingly, of course, but she said it more than once.
He was president of his senior class in high school and was graduated with the third highest average and honours in mathematics and science. In the school year-book he was named the best dancer, the most popular and the most likely to succeed. His parents gave a party for him which was attended by many young people from the better part of the town.
Two weeks later he was drafted.
Comments. First Variant
b) The mother is a “bitter and unhappy” woman because of the frustration of her youthful hopes: “a mere oiler” sounds contemptuous.
Her snobbishness is stressed by her attitude to the Portuguese (not shared by his husband) and by not encouraging the son to play with them.
c) The selfish character of the boy is clear in his using “an unattractive girl”.
d) His hypocrisy is clear in the part describing his school-days. The repetition of the verb “like” and parallel structures make it clear.
e) The repeated mention of “the better part of the town” and his mothers repeated joke about his eventually marrying a rich mans daughter is another means of stressing the snobbishness.
f) The abundance of superlatives in the last paragraph of the text shows his success and realization of ambitions hopes.
In conclusion it is possible to suppose that the part “One” was devoted to the prospective victim of this worthy son of his mother. Should anyone, by any chance be in the way of “His” success, the outcome is clear.
The text surely belongs to an American author if only because the geographical names, mention of different nationalities and the use of “hazers” (meaning “bullies”).
Tasks: 1) Comment upon the sentences containing: “…world come”, “admonishingly”, “anonymous”, “again and again”, “cloackroom kisses”, “sparring”.
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