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Academic Paper


Title: '... this unique distance from isolation': A stylistic analysis of Larkin's Talking in Bed
Paper URL: http://www.shakespeare.uk.net/journal/jllit/1_1/mazid_lit_1_1.html
Author: Bahaa-Eddin M. Mazid
Email: click here to access email
Institution: United Arab Emirates University
Linguistic Field: Discourse Analysis; Semantics; Ling & Literature
Subject Language: English
Abstract: Philip Larkin's Talking in Bed (1964) is a poem about isolation, disillusionment and failure, about the gap between expectations and reality, about the ironies of love in the modern world. It is also about the difficulty of telling the truth and being nice at one and the same time. Compared to other poems by Larkin, such as Church Going and Whitsun Weddings, Talking in Bed seems to have received very little attention, probably because of its superficial simplicity. The present study provides an integrative, bottom-up stylistic analysis of the poem. The analysis is done in three main steps corresponding to the three main "stylistic levels" of a text: the "micro" level of the poem as form, the "intermediate" level of the poem as discourse, and the "macro" level of the poem as a communicative event (Finch, 1998, p. 208). At the level of the poem as form, the study investigates the overall structure of the poem and the grammatical structure of the sentences therein from a rather traditional, pre-functional, point of view. The different meanings of the major lexical items, the semantics of negation, the instances of anomaly, ambiguity and polysemy and the use of adjectives in the poem are also explored. These aspects inevitably lead up to the higher and broader level of the poem as discourse. The discursive aspects investigated in the study, based on Halliday's three metafunctions, are images and isotopes - language, love, and nature; lexical sets, cohesive devices, representation of reality (field) and transitivity choices - processes, participants and circumstances; demonstratives, pronoun reference, interpersonal relationships (tenor), deictics and the deictic sub-worlds of the poem. At a broader level, the study addresses the communicative situation of the poem. This is where the biographical context and generic and other text-external aspects of the poem are explored. This wider context subsumes ideological as well as historical aspects of the text. It also includes the external tenor, i.e., the author-reader relationship, the code, mode and channel and more comprehensive comments on the field of the poem.
Type: Individual Paper
Status: Completed
Publication Info: Journal of Language and Literature, Volume 1 Number 1 2002
URL: http://www.shakespeare.uk.net/journal/jllit/1_1/mazid_lit_1_1.html


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