Реферат на тему:
Theoretical preliminaries to literary text interpretation
1. Approaches to interpretation of a literary text.
2. Elements of a literary work. Formal and poetic layers.
3. The theory of foregrounding. Foregrounding and automatization.
1. There are two main approaches to the analysis and interpretation of
a) from the standpoint of the author and
b) from the standpoint of the reader.
The first approach is concerned with the study of the factors that have
influenced the writer and affected his work of art. Among these factors
are: the historical and political situation at the time of creation, the
author’s philosophical and aesthetic views, the historical situation of
the period his work represents, etc. The approach can be traced in the
course of History of Literature.
The second approach attaches importance to the study of the text itself
and its impact on the reader. It involves the analysis of the elements
of the text which evoke definite emotional response and affect the
general impression. It is the second approach that we attempt to follow
while interpreting literature. In each reader, a literary work evokes
some personal associations, images and thoughts.
Recreating the images in his own imagination, receiving the
impressions, the reader is at the same time to pass judgements upon
them, to get through the images to the author’s outlook, to the
so-called image of the author reflected in his writings. An interpreter
is to get at the writer’s message which can be both explicitly expressed
through particular language means and only implied through elusive
images. The effect a literary text produces on the reader may be
ambiguous and diverse.
The message that a literary work conveys is expressed both
linguistically and extralinguistically. Every character, every event,
every bit of dialogue, every figure of speech contributes to the general
effect. To comprehend and interpret a literary work, therefore, one
should be sensitive to the author’s way of balancing both the linguistic
and extralinguistic elements to stir the reader’s imagination, touch his
heart and excite his mind.
Though the material of literature is l-ge, language items in the
context of fiction acquire additional overtones, thus developing a great
suggestive power. It mainly depends on the writer’s skill and his style.
D. Lodge in his book “Language of fiction” (1966) wrote: “Style is the
means by which the writer … ensures that his message is decoded in such
a way that the reader not only understands the information conveyed, but
shares the writer’s attitude towards it”.
2. The impact of a literary work, as it has already been stated,
depends on all the elements constituting it. N. Sharova considers words,
phrases, sentences, paragraphs, chapters to be elements of the verbal
(or formal) layer of a literary work.
Plot, theme, genre, imagery make up the poetic layer.
The verbal and poetic layers form a unity. Therefore, all the events in
the plot, its structure, the characters and scenes, every dialogue and
detail, the choice of words, the literary and language devices are
related to the inseparable whole. Each of the elements in particular,
and all of them in unison contribute to the impact of the whole.
Thus, in the structure of a literary work it is possible to single out
two major layers: the FORMAL one and the POETIC one. In each of those
there are two levels. The first level of the formal layer consists of
lexical, syntactical and phono-graphical characteristics of the text.
Components of the first level make up those of the second level. The
lexical items together with tropes, key words help to present the
described objects from a particular angle of vision (or context). The
syntactical means (repetition, inversion, the length and structures of
sentences, etc.) indicate poetic details and symbols. Punctuation,
concentration of long/short vowels, sound symbolism create rhythmical
pattern of the text.
The formal layer, besides conveying logical straightforward information,
creates the poetic layer. The latter is largely implicit and carries the
message and reveals the emotional-evaluative tone or atmosphere of the
text. The first level of the poetic layer includes separate
micro-images, implications, associations produced by semantic
transposition (tropes) and by connotations of words, details, sound
Interaction of micro-images, implications, associations in the context
of the whole extract forms a certain emotional atmosphere and a
particular tone which is the second level of the poetic layer. The tone
reveals implied attitude, and the atmosphere reflect the mood.
The basic components of the poetic layer are the implicit macro-images
of personages and the image of the author.
The scheme reflects the logic of reading: first the reader perceives
components of the form and then, having thought over their
interrelations, infers the message.
Scheme of logical structure presents the succession (or a hierarchy) of
the major components of the text.
THE FORMAL LAYER
1st level Lexical Items, Grammatical Means, Phono-Graphic Means
2nd level angle of vision poetic details
(general, panoramic) symbols
THE POETIC LAYER
1st level Micro-Images, Implications, Associations
2nd level Macro-Images: Atmosphere, Tone
a) the image of the author/narrator
b) personages’ images
The cohesion of the two layers, i.e. of the verbal and superverbal
constitutes what is known as the poetic structure of the literary text.
3. What literature is, how it works, and why it is there at all, are
some of the main questions that the theory of foregrounding tries to
provide answers to. According to the theory of foregrounding, literature
– by employing usual forms of l-ge – breaks up the reader’s routine
behaviour: commonplace views and perspectives are replaced by new and
surprising insights and sensations.
The term ‘foregrounding’ may be used in a purely linguistic sense. It
then refers to new information, in contrast to elements in the sentence
which form the background against which the new elements are to be
understood by the listener/reader. In what follows, this term can be
used in the areas of stylistics, text linguistics, and literary studies.
The term ‘foregrounding’ which was borrowed from the visual arts, the
ability of a verbal element to obtain extra significance, to say more in
a definite context, was introduced by Prague Structuralists (especially
Jan Mukarovsky), who introduced it as a translation of the Czech
aktualisace and employed it in the sense of the English ‘actualization’.
This suggests a temporal category: to make smth actual (rather than
The English term ‘foregrounding’ has come to mean several meanings at
First of all it is used to indicate the (psycholinguistic) process by
which – during the reading act – something may be given special
Second, it may refer to specific devices (as produced by the author)
located in the text itself. It is also employed to indicate the specific
poetic effect on the reader. Indeed, when a word (affix, sentence),
automatized by the long use in speech, through context developments,
obtains some new, additional feature, the act resembles a background
phenomenon moving into the front line – foregrounding.
Finally, it may be used as a category in order to evaluate literary
texts, or situate them historically, or to explain their importance and
Thus the term covers a wide area of meaning.
Outside literature, so the assumption goes, l-ge tends to be
automatized; its structure and meanings are used routinely. Within
literature, however, this is opposed by devices which thwart (hinder,
interfere with) the automatism with which l-ge is read, processed, or
So a very important notion is the distinction btw ‘automatization’ and
‘foregrounding’ in l-ge.
Automatization refers to the common use of linguistic devices which do
not attract particular attention by l-ge decoder, e.g. the use of
discourse markers (e.g. well, you know, sort of, kind of) in spontaneous
spoken conversations. Thus automatization correlates with the usual
background pattern, or the norm in l-ge use – it encompasses those forms
and structures that competent l-ge users expect to be used in a given
context of situation.
Foregrounded (‘brought forward’) linguistic devices, on the other hand,
are usually not expected to be used in a specific context and are thus
considered conspicuous – they catch the language decoder’s attention
(e.g. the use of old-fashioned and/or very formal words such as epicure,
improvident, and whither in spontaneous spoken conversations).
Foregrounding thus captures deviations from the norm. It is obvious that
what is considered as automatized and foregrounded l-ge use, depends on
the communicative situation at hand. In technical fields of discourse,
for instance, specialized vocabulary items tend to be automatized (e.g.
lambda marker in molecular biology), but in everyday communication
become foregrounded devices.
The result is some degree of surprise in the reader, and his/her
attention is thereby drawn to the form of the text itself (rather than
to its content). Cases of neologism, live metaphors, or ungrammatical
sentences, as well as archaisms, paradox and oxymoron (the traditional
tropes) are clear examples of deviation.
Foregrounded and automatized segments of the text contribute to
different types of information, including emotionality of the text and
message of it. Discourse can be foregrounded or automatized at different
language levels. Therefore, the arrangement in the text is hierarchical.
Graphically the relationship between the message of the text and
literary and linguistic devices can be represented in the form of the
pyramid. At the base of the pyramid there are more basic and logically
oriented linguistic devices and forms of the language (foregrounded,
automatized forms). On their way toward the apex of the pyramid they
form more complex formations and ultimately merge into the message of
the text, which is represented by the apex.
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