commentary.doc - The Literary Commentary A commentary(or explication de texte is an exercise in the close reading of a text in the analysis and

commentary.doc - The Literary Commentary A commentary(or...

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The Literary Commentary A commentary (or explication de texte ) is an exercise in the close reading of a text, in the analysis and appreciation of its significance and form (structure and style). Students often find such commentaries difficult, or content themselves with paraphrase. The following suggestions might therefore be helpful. Questions to ask of a prose passage 1. What TYPE OF PASSAGE is it in general (narrative, oratorical, dramatic, lyrical, descriptive, or other)? 2. What is the fil conducteur of the text, its MAIN IDEA or purpose? Does the text have any special qualities that are immediately striking? 3. What is the STRUCTURE of the passage? Is it organised in a certain way? Can its various parts be clearly delineated? Is there a pattern of subordination of one feature or group of features to another? Or, conversely, are there a number of conjunctions? How long are the sentences? Are individual sentences carefully organised? Do they tend to be independent of one another? Are there ellipses or inversions? 4. Does the text progress through such STYLISTIC FEATURES as enumeration, interrogation, apostrophy, exclamation, or other? Do you notice any peculiarities of word order? Of punctuation? Are there repetitions of words? If so, for what effect? What are the results obtained by such DEVICES as simile, metaphor, periphrasis, understatement, hyperbole, and symbolism? 5. How may the VOCABULARY be characterised? Is it abstract? Concrete? Are there allusions, proper names, archaisms, words used in special or etymological senses, incorrections, technical terms, words of local colour? 6. What are the EXPRESSIVE WORDS of the passage, as opposed to the 'tool words' common to every text? Are nouns, verbs or other parts of speech used in any special way? Does the presence of certain stylistic traits seem to reveal something about the author's turn of mind or special interests? For example, does the choice of nouns reveal the author's attitude toward the external world? Is the author's individuality revealed by his/her choice of adjectives, adverbs, or verbs? 7. Does the author favour a particular kind of IMAGERY?
8. Is the RHYTHM of the passage of interest? What expressive purpose does it serve? Is there intentional rhythmic monotony? Do the sentences produce an effect of rhythmic harmony and balance, or the contrary?

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