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 Ling 131: Language & Style

Topic 3 (session A) - Patterns, Deviations, Style and Meaning > Deviation: Literary examples > Task D

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Session Overview
Overview of foregrounding, deviation and parallelism
Deviation: non - literary examples
Deviation: literary examples
Parallelism: non-literary examples
Parallelism: literary examples
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Deviation for Foregrounding Purposes - Literary examples

Task D - Structure

Imagine a poem or a short story, which, instead of being set in the normal way, is arranged into two columns, as below:

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xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx

xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx
xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx

This kind of structure, or shape, would clearly be deviant compared with the orthographic shape of the various literary genres, and so foregrounded.

What kind of effect do you think such a structure could be used for in a poem or story? Can you think of any texts that have used this sort of structure?

This kind of deviant graphological effect would seem to suit well the idea of two things which could in some way be seen as opposed to one another (the representation of an argument, perhaps), or paralleling one another (for example two people talking at the same time, perhaps saying very similar things to a third party - parents scolding a child, for example).

Various writers have used this kind of graphological deviation to good effect across all three major literary genres. Alan Bennett uses it in Part I his play The Madness of King George to indicate to the actors playing King George and his pages that they need to say their speeches at the same time, to help to indicate that the pages are ignoring what their king says, as they drag him off to the blistering stool for the fearsome treatment which the king's physicians are recommending to cure his insanity.

Roger McGough uses it in his poem '40 - love' to represent a middle-aged couple playing tennis (and so who are on either side of the net) and who, though married, are emotionally apart. In this case, the text is Irving Welsh uses it in his short story 'Across the Hall' (from his collection called The Acid House) to represent a man and a woman thinking lascivious thoughts about one another while lying on their beds in flats opposite one another. In both these texts the two inner lines are both justified, to produce a 'mirror image effect' which symbolizes the apartness of the couples in each case, and the net in the McGough poem and the walls separating the flats in the Welsh short story.


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