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Main elements of a literary text - Реферат

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Main elements of a literary text


1. The short story genre. The theme.

2. The message.

3. Tonal system.

4. The plot and its structure.

5. System of images. The means of characterization.

1. A short story is traditionally understood as a short story narrative in prose. Its literary classical definition presents a short story as a relatively brief prose narrative, usually characterized by uniformity of tone and dramatic intensity, and having as plot a single action. A popular form of a story is one that tells events with a definite beginning, middle and end. But others may have very little plot and may never have moved to a completed action.

A short story usually contains one event focusing on a single aspect of life. The number of characters is limited but they are rather revealed and developed. The story may belong to a particular type: social, psychological, historical, adventure, detective, science-fiction, documentary or be the mixture of a number of the types.

Note. Why story? We deal with the short prose form of fiction, the short story, because of two reasons:

a) in the short story the linguistic and literary devices are expressively more loaded than in the long form of writing, the novel;

b) because of its length the short story abounds in implicit information.

A literary work is an artistic whole which is created by the interaction of all its elements: the characters, setting, plot, plot structure, language, literary techniques, etc.

The basic problem represented in the story is the theme. The theme is the main area of interest treated in the story. It is the represented aspect of life which the story illustrates.

As literary works commonly have human characters for their subject of depiction the theme may be understood as an interaction of human characters under certain circumstances (the theme of love or love for one's Motherland; the theme of family relations, war and peace; a clash of cultures; discrimination of any kind, etc.)

Within a single narrative the basic theme may alternate with rival themes and their relationship may be complex. All the themes are linked together to represent a unity, the essential characteristic of a literary creation.

Thus the theme of the story implies the problem which the writer raises. His view and attitude to this problem is revealed in the way he develops the theme of the story.

2. The most important idea that the author expresses in the process of developing the theme is the message of the story. The theme is therefore organically connected with the author's message.

The message is generally expressed implicitly, i.e. indirectly, and has a complex analytical character, being created by the interaction of numerous implications which the different elements of the literary work have.

Implication is the suggestion that is not expressed directly but understood. Implication may be conveyed by different techniques, such as

a) parallelism (parallel actions of the dream and reality),

b) contrast (e.g. the antithetical thematic planes of the vocabulary; this implication can also be suggested by the antithesis in the title Arrangement in Black and White),

c) recurrence of events or situations (repetition of key words in the text important for the understanding of the message of the story),

d) artistic details which stimulate the reader's imagination and serve to add something new about a character, or place, or event. E.g. feet and hands with "fingers worked to the bone" in J. Priestley's Angel Pavement create the image of a woman exhausted by a life full of hardships),

e) symbols. When the artistic detail is repeated several times and associated with a broader concept than the original, it develops into a symbol. It is a metaphoric expression of the concept it stands for. Symbols may be traditional and personal. An example of a traditional symbol is a rose. The rose is a traditional symbol of beauty. Personal symbols are established by means of repetition, repeated association with a broader concept. E.g. in Rain by S. Maugham the rain symbolizes the powers of nature before which Mr. Davidson is powerless and all his efforts are useless and hopeless.

The message depends on the writer's outlook, and the reader may either share the writer's views or not. On account of this, L. Timofeyev distinguishes the following types of messages:

a) messages that suggest definite solutions (ідея-відповідь),

b) messages that raise a problem (ідея-запитання),

c) messages in which the solution of the problem is not adequate (ідея-помилка). When analyzing the message one must also take into consideration the title of the story. The title is the first element to catch our eye, but its meaning and function may be determined retrospectively. The title may have the following functions:

1. It may serve as a means of conveying the author's message.

2. It may serve as a means of cohesion – it may unite the components of a story to form a whole.

3. The title may serve as a means of focusing the reader's attention on the most relevant characters and details.

On revealing the author's message, the reader generally analyses his own rational and emotional response to the story, he/she draws his own conclusions. M.Khrapchenko and L.Timofeyev distinguish between the so-called objective message and the author's message.

The objective message is the final conclusion that the reader draws from the analysis of his own response to the story and from the author's message, contained in the story. The objective message may be broader than the author's message, because it is based on more profound historical experience.

3. In every literary work the writer's feelings and emotions are reflected in the tone, attitude and atmosphere.

Atmosphere is the general mood of a literary work. It is affected by such elements of a literary work as the plot, setting, characters, details, symbols and l-ge and literary means.

The author's attitude is his view of the characters and actions. It reflects his judgement of them. It establishes the moral standards according to which the reader is to make his judgements about the problems raised in the story.

The attitude of the writer to his subject matter determines the tone of the story. The tone is the light in which the characters and events are depicted. The tone, therefore, is closely related to atmosphere and attitude.

In fiction tone expresses the relationship between the author (or narrator) and the subject matter. Hence the tone may be sympathetic or impassive, cheerful or serious, vigorous or matter-of-fact, humorous or melancholy and so on. On the other hand, tone expresses the relationship between the author (or narrator) and the reader. Hence the tone may be familiar or official. There are scales of variations of tone. Thus, the tone may be casual, familiar, impolite, deviant, offensive, it may be sarcastic, ironical, sneering or bitter.

M. Khrapchenko noted that one should distinguish between the prevailing tone of a literary work and emotional overtones, which may accompany particular scenes in the story. They all form a "tonal system" which reflects the changes of the narrator's attitude to his subject matter. The emotional overtones generally form a "tonal unity" which means a consistency of attitude towards the events and characters. This consistency of attitude is reflected in the consistent use of language appropriate to the events and characters. So the "tonal unity" forms the prevailing tone of the story, which plays the dominant role and determines to a great extent the message of the literary work.

The narrator as mentioned above may establish an intimate, personal, or formal relationship with the reader. Hence he may discourse at ease and assume a familiar tone, or he may retain a relative distance and narrate in an official tone. The indices of this aspect of tone are also linguistic.

The official tone is set up by words and idioms that have an official ring, e.g. "relevant" (for "important"), "up to the present time" (for "up to now"), etc. It may be set up by carefully organized syntax and carefully expressed ideas admitting no deviations from the standard.

The familiar tone is established by features of the spoken language, the conversational style in particular. To these features belong colloquial words, idioms, jargonisms, and slang. Delaying devices (e.g. sort of, well, shall I say), colloquial parenthetic phrases (e.g. you know what I mean) – all contribute to the establishment of a personal relationship between the narrator and the reader, and the same time they set up a familiar tone.

Thus, a story's style and voice contribute to its tone. Tone refers to the attitude that the story creates toward its subject matter. For example, a story may convey an earnest and sincere tone toward its characters and events, signalling to the reader that the material is to be taken in a serious, dramatic way. On the other hand, an attitude of humour or sarcasm may be created through subtle language and content manipulation.

4. The theme can be understood from the plot – the plan of a literary composition comprising a series of incidents (events) which are gradually unfolded and each of the incidents comes out of the preceding one and increases in intensity until the highest point is reached. In other words, the plot is a series of interlinked events in which the characters of the story participate.

Every plot is a series of meaningful events. The author selects the events which are meaningful to the message contained in the story, and to characterization, i.e. he/she chooses those that serve to reveal certain features of the characters, their motives and morals. Therefore, each event in the story is always logically related to the message, the theme, the conflict, and is psychologically related to the development of the characters within the story.

The events of the plot are generally localized, i.e. they are set in a particular place and time. The place and time of the actions of a story (or novel) form the setting. For the setting the writer selects the relevant details which would suggest the whole scene. While setting includes simple attributes such as climate or dcor, it can also include complex dimensions such as the historical period the story occupies or its social context, the significant cultural issues affecting a story's setting. In some stories the setting is scarcely noticeable, in others – it plays a very important role. The functions of the setting may vary.