"Ozymandias" and Irony

"Ozymandias" and Irony

Ozymandias and Irony Formalist Criticism What do Literary Critics do? Literary critics make observations about and connections between works of literature, and between literature and its social and historical contexts. A literary critic might Explain how a certain literary effect is achieved using examples from a work of literature. Explore how a work (or an author, or a group of authors) treats a theme. Explore a work in the context of another academic

discipline. What do Literary critics not do? Most literary critics are not interested in making judgments about whether a work of literature is well written or poorly written. If a literary critic is writing about a work, he or she most likely believes that there is something interesting and worthwhile to say about it. Most literary critics are not interested in making moral judgments about a work of literature. They are usually not concerned about whether a book is morally bad or good, and they dont write about

the work in terms of agreeing or disagreeing with it. What is Critical Theory? A Critical Theory is like a set of lenses that literary critics put on in order to bring certain elements of the work into focus. As is true with real lenses, every critical "lens" will make the work "look" a little bit different. Every critical theory has a set of assumptions about what is most important to look at in a work of literature. By "trying on" these assumptions for yourself, you can broaden your appreciation for the

work, and for the critical theory or strategy. Critical "Lens:" Formalism Formalism assumes that all that is needed in order to interpret a poem or a work of literature is contained within the poem itself. Formalist critics are mostly unconcerned about historical/cultural context and biographical information about the author. are very concerned with sound, form, word choice, literary effects, and "close reading." ("Close reading" is a detailed analysis of the literary effects produced

by a work without referring to outside influences.) Formalism in a Nutshell: A key belief underlying New Critical analysis [. . .] is that literature expresses universal meanings beyond its own time period and cultural context. The New Critics asserted that the sole task of the critic is to explore precisely how, through language and form, those meanings are expressed and powerfully impressed upon readers (Hall 14). History of Formalism

New Criticism, which is another name for formalism, began in the 1920's as a reaction against the a current trend in literary criticism that New Critics (Formalists) did not like. Before the New Critics, most literary criticism focused heavily on the life of the author and concerns outside of the literature itself. Three Influential Formalist Critics: T.S. Elliot Robert Penn Warren Cleanth Brooks If any of this sounds familiar You are probably are already familiar with many of the

tools that formalists used to analyze literature, and you may have already practiced formalist criticism yourself. This is because formalists were so influential that they changed the way that literature (especially poetry) was taught to elementary and high school students. So, if you have ever figured out the rhyme scheme of a poem, discussed how alliteration draws attention to certain words, or pointed out that a line break in just that place in a poem enhances the theme of the whole work, you have done what formalist critics do. Formalisms Continuing Impact The bad news (for fans of formalism): Not a lot of literary

critics write pure formalist criticism any more. Most modern literary criticism does deal with social and cultural contexts, a practice that Formalists thought unnecessary. The good news: Every other type of literary criticism uses the assumptions and vocabulary of Formalism as a base to build on, and all of them share Formalisms assumption that a close reading of a work that pays attention to word choice, sound, form, and other literary elements is a vital part of the interpretive process. Questions formalists might ask: What are the effects produced by this work? (Formalists differentiate between effects and feelings.) For example, they

might be drawn to the way Robert Browning cleverly unfolds the story of "My Last Duchess" or the use of irony in "Ozymandias." How do individual word choices, sound patterns, and other literary devices combine to create this effect? What are some of the tensions in this work (between ideas, between forces, between people)? How do the things discussed above (rhyme, sound patterns, imagery, etc.) create, then heighten or lessen those tensions? Is this work internally consistent? How does it maintain that consistency? If the work contains literary allusions, how do those allusions function within the confines of the poem?

To Become Proficient at Formalism, a Student Should Be familiar with the vocabulary specific or common to the study of literature. Concepts like stanza, motif, metaphor, and alliteration are central to a Formalists discussion of how a work of literature does what it does. Read an introduction to Formalist criticism. Many Intro to Critical/Literary Theory books have chapters about Formalism/New Criticism. Find one of these books and read the chapter carefully, looking up unfamiliar words/concepts as you go. Read examples of Formalist criticism. If a critic announces that he/she is doing a close reading or an explication of a poem,

theres a good chance that critic is relying heavily on Formalist assumptions. (Theres even a journal called The Explicator that only publishes close readings of works of literature.) Introduction to Irony Irony occurs when "a discrepancy exists between two levels of meaning and experience." Dramatic irony: The reader knows something the characters dont. Situational Irony: The outcome of a situation drastically upsets readers expectations. Verbal Irony: Saying one thing and meaning another. (Sarcasm is an example of this.)

The section on irony is on p. 499 of your textbook. "Ozymandias" by Percy Shelley p. 501 A couple of difficult words before we start: Trunkless: In this case, a body lacking a torso Visage: Face How does the author create irony here? What specific words does he use that make the poem particularly ironic? Be sure to tell me how the words you choose answer this question.

Why did Ozymandias (the guy who the statue is of) want people to "despair"? Why might people still "despair" when they see the statue, but for different reasons?

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