Friday, February 26, 2016

The Dramatic Genre

Dramatic works, or theatre plays, present conflicts between different characters, without the need for an author to describe or introduce them, and without a narrator to say what each one of them thinks or feels. The characters talk to one another and act themselves, in different moments and places.
In this type of texts, the author remains hidden behind the fictitious personalities that he creates, and only the characters talk: they express their own feelings, present their ideas and opinions, describe objects, situations and people, tell stories, etc.
In general, a dramatic work is written to be performed on the stage by actors that borrow their body, their voice and movements to the characters. Performances are scheduled for a certain time and a given location. However, throughout history, there have been plays that were never acted on stage, and others that were not even meant for this purpose, but rather only to be read.
Literary genres have evolved and changed throughout history, as did the society, the language, and people themselves. Following the literary culture and tradition, each period was dominated by particular types and species of lyric, epic-narrative or dramatic works. Authors sometimes chose to deviate from the generic literary guidelines of their time and constantly tried to change and renew them; this has been the case especially in the past two centuries: the 19th and the 20th.
Moreover, due to the authors’ efforts to renew the already popular genres, in their search for a higher level of originality and creativity, there is a tendency for new, mixed species to appear; thus, we now have lyric novels, epic-lyric poems, epic plays, lyric texts with dramatic tension, etc. Practically, there are no fixed limits, set once and for all; although there have been times when the genres were more standardized – like, for example, during the classical centuries, from Antiquity to the modern age – the evolution and change didn’t stall, so that those centuries were always followed by periods characterized by profound changes and socio-cultural crises. This is the case for our age: the breaking of generic boundaries has happened very fast and in a revolutionary way.
On the other hand, we must always consider that in a single work we can identify chapters, excerpts or paragraphs that fit into a certain genre, although the work as a whole belongs to a different genre.
For instance, in Cervantes’ The Gypsy Girl, which is a narrative work, there are fragments that belong to the lyric genre. These insertions are used in order to highlight some of the issues that the author wants to approach, like love or the beauty of Preciosa; there is also a poem whose central topic is poetry itself, which describes what poetry is and presents its main features.
We also need to take into account the fact that these genres are rarely seen in a pure state. We conclude that a given work belongs to a certain genre depending on the predominant characteristics found in the text, whether they are typical for one genre or another. A novel, for example, can have a structure characteristic for the epic genre, and can be predominantly narrative, but at the same time it can contain lyric or dramatic elements.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


A. The lyric genre
Lyric works present reality from the observer’s point of view, as a personal and intimate vision of a human being. Lyric texts are generally written at first person – although this is not always the case – and they usually come in verses. Some lyric texts date back to ancient times. However, modern lyric also comes in prose, like in Platero and I, by Juan Ramón Jiménez, or in Ocnus, by Luis Cernuda.

B. The epic or narrative genre
An epic text present a fictitious realm or world as if it was an objective reality, exterior to the author, although in fact it is the creation of the writer’s mind just as much as a lyric work is.
In epic or narrative works, the author describes people, situations and places, recounts actions and events that occur in different places at different times, puts words in the mouth of his characters and sometimes even describes the inner world inside his characters’ or even his own mind: thoughts, feelings, moods, intentions…
An important aspect of the narrative technique is the point of view that the author chooses for the narrator.
- The omniscient narrator (the one that knows everything) tells the story using the third person, as if he could see and know everything about the characters, even their deepest and most hidden thoughts.
- The first-person narrator is characteristic for autobiographical works, but this does not mean that the text will be about the author himself. The “I” of the author is different from the “I” of the narrator.
- Epistolary texts, in which the narrators are characters themselves, and the text consists of a series of letters shared between two or more characters.
In order to differentiate between the two names given to this literary genre, we will consider epic  as the term that can apply to the literature of Antiquity, The Middle Age and Renaissance, while narrative refers to works in prose, in general.

Monday, February 22, 2016


These devices operate at the level of the entire sentence and relates to the function of the words within it.
-                             Anaphora: The repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of each line or sentence: What the hammer? what the chain? / In what furnace was thy brain? / What the anvil? what dread grasp / Dare its deadly terrors clasp?” William Blake.
-                             Epiphora: The repetition of a word or phrase at the end of each line or sentence: “I am wearing a pair of shoes. / They are ugly shoes. / Uncomfortable shoes. / I hate my shoes.” Author Unknown
-                             Morphological anaphora: Sentences or lines ending in the same part of speech, usually past participles or gerunds. “12 Drummers Drumming / Eleven Pipers Piping / Ten Lords a Leaping / Nine Ladies Dancing / Eight Maids a Milking / Seven Swans a Swimming / Six Geese a Laying” (Twelve Days of Christmas)
-                             Concatenation: The linking of sentences by repeating certain words. “And so, as the saying is, cat to rat, rat to rope, rope to stick, the carrier pounded Sancho, Sancho the lass, she him, and the innkeeper her, and all worked away so briskly that they did not give themselves a moment's rest.” Miguel de Cervantes
-                             Parallelism. The presence of similar syntactic structures (like phrases or sentences): A woman has poisoned my soul, / Another has poisoned my body. Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer.
-                             Polysyndeton: The use of multiple conjunctions in an enumeration, which can be omitted without a change in meaning. “Let the whitefolks have their money and power and segregation and sarcasm and big houses and schools and lawns like carpets, and books, and mostly–mostly–let them have their whiteness.” Maya Angelou
-                             Asyndeton: The omission of the conjunction at the end of an enumeration, so that all the elements are separated by commas. “This is the villain among you who deceived you, who cheated you, who meant to betray you completely.” Aristotle
-                             Pleonasm. Repetition of the same idea using different words, meant to intensify expressively a certain sensation. “Let me tell you this, when social workers offer you, free, gratis and for nothing, something to hinder you from swooning, which with them is an obsession, it is useless to recoil.” Samuel Beckett
-                             Derivation. Expressive intensification through the use of multiple words from the same lexical family. I will bring you a blood-red rose with my bloody hands. Blas de Otero
-                             Dilogy. The use of a phrase or word with a double meaning. Speckled in her customs and her face, / She could look pretty amongst jasper gemstones… Francesco de Quevedo. Here, speckled means freckled, but also sinful.
-                             Ellipsis. Expressive intensification through the omission of certain words. The door, open. / The wine, soft. / Neither matter, nor spirit. Making / the ship to tilt a little. Dámaso Alonso
-                             Hyperbaton. The change of the logical order of the words in a sentence. There was in Toledo / by the King appointed, a governor / full of justice and bravery, / don Pedro Ruiz de Alarcón. José de Zorrilla.
-                             Periphrasis. The indirect and complicated formulation of an idea that could be expressed in a simple way. “I was within a hair’s-breadth of the last opportunity for pronouncement, and I found with humiliation that probably I would have nothing to say.” Oscar Wilde
-                             Syllabic pun. A play on words that involves using phrases formed with syllables from previous words. They keep them in the glassrooms, / Whole rooms made out of glass. (…) Tea-cher. The one who makes the tea. Roger McGough

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The lyric expression

Generally, the lyric expression appears in the form of poems, but it can also take the shape of texts in prose.
Additionally, species have also changes in time. In each period, each genre was represented by certain species that lasted for a while, and then were replaced by others. Epic works, for example, like heroic poems, were specific for the Middle Ages, but afterwards they disappeared. In the tables accompanying this work you can see some of these species or forms, and the way they have evolved throughout history; with the aid of these forms, we will analyze the evolution of Spanish literature from its origins to the nineteenth century.
Traditionally, there are also other fields that have been considered to be literary genres: Rhetoric, Didactics, History and, more recently, Essayism and Journalism. The concept of literary style is characteristic for these, too, and they often use language in a way similar to a literary work, although the main purpose of the text is different. Generally, Rhetoric is the art of persuasion of the listener through the use of language. Didactics has the purpose to convey information or knowledge. History narrates real events of the past. The Essay is a way of presenting an author’s thoughts over a certain issue in a free manner. Finally, Journalism reflects actual news, events that happen in the present.
Lyric Species:
- Ode: Lyric poem that expresses an intense feeling of the poet, using a highly praising tone.
- Elegy: A poem in which the poet expresses his saddest feelings due to a tragic event, usually the death of a beloved person.
- Eclogue: Bucolic or pastoral poem in which nature and love are idealized.
- Satire: Poem or prose that censures or ridicules human or social behavior.
- Epigram: Short poem used for inscriptions or epitaphs, that can also have humoristic or satirical intention and meaning.
- Epithalamium: Poem in which a wedding is described and celebrated.
- Hymn: Poetic composition that praises a character or a historical event of particular importance, using a tone of high grandeur.
- Anacreontic: Poem that praises sensual pleasure, love and wine.
- Epistle: Letter in the form of a poem, that illustrates moral and doctrinal ideas.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Teaching with literary terms

These devices are related to the special use of words and the change in their meaning.
-                             Rhetorical questions: These are questions that don’t require an answer because they actually are strong affirmative or negative statements. “If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?” Percy Bysshe Shelley.
-                             Apostrophe: An exclamatory statement addressed to a person, or a personified animal or object. "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" Saint Paul of Tarsus
-                             Antithesis: The opposition or contract between two ideas or words, arranged in a symmetrical pattern: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness…” (Charles Dickens)
-                             Paradox: The connection of two contrasting ideas: “Child is father of the man.” (William Wordsworth)
-                             Personification: The attribution of human actions or features to non-human beings or objects. “There was never a sound beside the wood but one / And that was my long scythe whispering to the ground.” William Blake
-                             Hyperbole: Deliberate exaggeration of certain characteristics in a description. “I was quaking from head to foot, and could have hung my hat on my eyes, they stuck out so far." (Mark Twain)
-                             Comparison or simile: The linking of meanings between two different objects, using a conjunction (like, as, looking like etc.) “Elderly American ladies leaning on their canes listed toward me like towers of Pisa.” Vladimir Nabokov
-                             Metaphor: The connection between a real concept and an abstract one with which it is compared indirectly. “All the world’s a stage and men and women merely players…” William Shakespeare 

Monday, February 8, 2016


-                             Synesthesia: The transfer of a meaning from a certain sense, to another sense. “With your deep ravines and your sour summits…” Antonio Machado
-                             Allegory: The global transformation of meaning, so that it expresses a general idea, through a procedure similar to metaphor: “To that unfathomed, boundless sea,/ The silent grave! / Thither all earthly pomp and boast / Roll, to be swallowed up and lost / In one dark wave. / Thither the mighty torrents stray, / Thither the brook pursues its way, / And tinkling rill,/ There all are equal; side by side / The poor man and the son of pride / Lie calm and still.” Jorge Manrique
-                             Synecdoche: The transformation of meaning by using a part meant to represent the whole, or the other way around. “His terrible whiskers flitted round me in silent criticism.” Joseph Conrad (the whickers refer to the man’s whole face, or even his entire body or person). “The petticoat at home, and on the streets, / and in the fields, the pants.” B. Pérez Galdós (that is to say, the woman stays at home, while the man goes on the street, or works in the field).
-                             Metonymy: The transformation of meaning by using an imaginary concept as a substitute for the real one, when there is a strong connection in meaning between the two. “You have no heart.” (In this example, the word “heart” is used instead of “feelings”.)

Monday, February 1, 2016

Literary Genres and Devices

What is literary language like? In what way is the language used for esthetic purposes different from the language used with representative function? Ordinary language and literary language are two ways in which the same system of communication is used. They both use the same code (the same phonological, morphological, syntactical and lexical systems).
For example, Antonio Machado evokes, in a literary manner, the memory of a woman in three lines:
Only your white silhouette
Like a white spark
In my dark night!
We can imagine the same situation described using normal speech: “I suddenly think about you at night.” Or “When I am sad, memories of you make me feel better.”
Therefore, it seems that the particularity of the literary language lies in its form, that is, in the relation established between the content itself, and the way it is expressed. The connotative meaning of the message makes the receiver fix their attention not only in the signified (the content), but mainly in the way it is expressed (the signifier or the expression). Stylistic devices make the message acquire esthetic value.
However, using figures of speech or an esthetic device doesn’t guarantee that the final work will be literary, because figurative speech is characteristic to colloquial or familial speech, too. For example, parents talk to their baby using emotional didactic devices: rhetoric questions (Who’s the cutest baby?), metaphors (my doll), hyperbole (you’re a lion!), etc.
A writer uses an intricate code in which the esthetic function is predominant. He selects and combines sounds, words, phrases (the expression) that match the object (the content), determining the reader to pay attention to both aspects.
The linguistic devices used in the intricate code that we know as the literary language are related to the three levels of the language: phonetic, lexico-semantic and syntactic. These devices play an essential role in the structure of a literary work, but it is extremely important to be familiar with them when it comes to analyzing and understanding a literary text.