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					Formal Features of
Literature
    GMC College




                  1
Introduction
   An Introduction to the formal
    Features of Literature
   Dr. Joel Peckham, Assistant
    Professor, Georgia Military College




                                      2
Topics of Discussion
   Whenever you are reading or re-reading,
    it is good idea to find a point of focus for
    critical response. Sometimes you will find
    yourself liking a piece, or hating it, or
    being indifferent to it and not knowing
    what to say. But if you break the piece
    down to its component formal elements
    and then use one or two of those
    elements to open up the text, you will
    find your level of understanding and
    pleasure increasing exponentially.
                                               3
Symbol

      the word SYMBOL means literally
       something that means something else. A
       dove, for example is a symbol of peace.
       Authors use symbols as intensely
       compressed units of meaning and rely on
       the reader's understanding of what a
       certain object, color, person or even
       symbolic action represents. This
       understanding may be developed through
       culture or through the writer's personal
       symbolism established over time in his or
       her own work.


                                               4
                  Image
   an IMAGE is a visual representation. In literature images are often used
    together to create a pattern which can give a reader a sense of tone or can
    establish a theme. Tracking how an image changes in visual
    representation, context, and meaning as it progresses through a piece can
    help a reader to understand the piece more fully.




                                                                              5
Simile
a SIMILE is a comparison qualified with the
  word like or as. They also serve to make
  the reader consider the relationships of
  things to each other--just not quite so
  radically. When Felicia Hemans writes
  that "No other smile to thee could bring /
  A gladdening, like the breath of spring"
  she is comparing the qualities of a spring
  breeze to a mother's smile.



                                           6
Analogy
   an ANALOGY is an extended
    comparision--usually of one setting
    or psychological situation to
    another. Often an author will
    develop such a comparison by
    using the words associated with
    one place or set of circumstances
    and comparing them to another.


                                      7
              The context of a piece is
Context
          

              more than its physical
              location--its SETTING. It is
              also its TIME PERIOD,
              and CULTURE. Context
              helps to establish tone and
              theme through placing an
              observation or event within
              a specific framework.
              Often an author will
              attempt to embed
              references between the
              culture or setting within the
              piece and the culture it
              was written in.


                                              8
Diction
   Diction means, quite literally, "word
    choice"--specifically, the way in
    which an author uses words to
    create a particular literary effect
    through analogy, tone, or theme.




                                        9
Tone      Originally a musical
           term, literary tone is
           generally taken to
           mean that element of
           a piece--established
           through figurative
           language, word,
           choice, and rhythm--
           that establishes the
           emotional and
           ambient quality of a
           literary work--its
           mood.
                                10
                The study of Narration
Narration
            
                or of Narrative
                Structure involves an
                exploration of why a
                piece has been put
                together in such a way--
                why it begins in-media-
                res, why it starts with
                dialogue or a
                description of setting. It
                assumes that the formal
                placement of narrative
                elements--such
                backstory, setting,
                characterization,
                dialogue etc.--contribute
                to the meaning of a
                literary work.
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Freitag’s      Exposition (A-B): the exposition introduces the central
                character and provides background or dramatic context.
Triangle       Introduction of the conflict (B), which leads to the
                complication or rising action (B-C): this part of the story
                offers a series of events that complicates the central
                character's situation. At some point, something forces the
                character to make a decision or take a course of action.
                That point is known as the deciding factor. It causes the
                action to reverse itself.
                                – Climax (C): this is the actual moment
                                  when the deciding factor takes place.
                                  What happens at this point determines
                                  the outcome of the piece.
                                – Falling action (C-D): the conflict begins
                                  to resolve itself.
                                – Resolution (D)




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Characterization      Characterization involves how a character is
                       developed--why she is the way she is-- and
                       how that character changes throughout the
                       course of the plot--how and why that
                       character becomes what she becomes. Our
                       understanding of who a character is in a
                       literary work is developed though that
                       character's physical description, dialogue,
                       personal history, representative actions,
                       family relationships, possessions, religion etc.
                       Often critics will refer to a character as "flat"
                       or "round" based that character's potential for
                       growth. A "flat character" is simply evil, or
                       stupid, or good throughout the text. A "round
                       character" changes in response to stimuli
                       provided as he or she progresses through the
                       narrative. In an "epiphany story," for example,
                       a character will come to a drastic realization
                       that will fundamentally change the way he or
                       she looks at the world. We often judge
                       whether or not a character has changed by
                       comparing how the author presents that
                       character in terms of physical description,
                       association, dialogue, representative actions,
                       etc. in comparison to how the character was
                       presented earlier in the story.

                                                                     13
            A theme is what a literary work is "about"--one of many points
Theme
        
            made in a text regarding how we live our lives. A theme of a work
            is not the same as its subject. Rather, it is that element of a work--
            usually referred to throughout the piece--that seeks to comment
            on larger issues such as value of family relationships, the value of
            community, the nature of love, the nature of death, etc. etc. And
            most literary works make numerous arguments regarding these
            issue--few of them explicitly stated. The ambiguous nature of
            artistic "argument" is part of its mystery, power, and interest. And
            that ambiguity is what makes discussion about literature lively and
            engaging.




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posted:11/7/2011
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