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I miss rhetorical analysis

March 4, 2008

Kind of. I spent a lot of college doing ridiculously detailed studies of texts. For forty lines from Vanity Fair I made color-coded pie graphs of all the different sounds Thackery used, I scanned his prose rhythm, I did an elaborate sentence pattern, I looked up all the content words in the OED, I looked up all his rhetorical forms in my lovely copy of A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms, and I wrote a paper explaining the aptum, why it was all so significant.

What I love about this kind of analysis is that it really tells me something about the text. It’s work, which is why I really don’t do it anymore. But I remember the way words would open up to me when I really took the time to understand how they were put together. And I miss that feeling, of pulling apart words and finding new depth there.

So every so often I do a very scaled-down version of that kind of analysis, like this one of “No Time,” at Segullah. The poem stands up to scrutiny. My own writing doesn’t often stand up to that level of analysis, but I love poetry that does, that’s accessible but structured at the same time.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Johnna permalink
    March 4, 2008 7:18 pm

    I love breaking apart the writing too, because it’s such a delight when it has its own particular anatomy under dissection.

    I feel very complimented that you chose to analyze that poem this week–the best kind of attention is to be so thoroughly read. Poems want to be read.

  2. Emily permalink*
    March 5, 2008 5:20 am

    I thought about taking more time with it, doing the OED thing, scanning it, and all that. But … I didn’t. It was a lot of work, and it’s not necessary to appreciate your poem, which I love.

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