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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Spring 2007

E 389M • Similes and Other Rhetorical Figures in Modern Poetry

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
34930 TTh
12:30 PM-2:00 PM

Course Description

Even if no contemporary poet can name a hundred schemes and tropes, as any Renaissance poet could, many poets in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have absorbed the unnamed tricks. We'll search out those tricks, give names to them, and make a stab at judging their effectiveness in specific poems. We'll also look at attempts at figurative language that flopped and ask why.

Schemes and tropes that can easily be identified include simile, metaphor, metonymy, synechdoche, hyperbole, chiasmus, antimetabole, zeugma, syllepsis. ellipsis, personification, oxymoron, antithesis, catachresis, and anaphora, among the more familiar--and among the more arcane, asyndeton, polysyndeton, epistrophe, epanalepsis, anadiplosis, polyptoton, prolepsis, restrictio, anthimeria, ploce, metalepsis, antanaclasis, epizeuxis, and chronographia.

For example, the following stanza by Auden, aside from its alliteration, is an example of synathroesmus:

He disappeared in the dead of winter:
The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted,
And snow disfigured the public statues:
The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day.
What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.
Synathroesmus is the figure of first giving the details and then gathering them up in recapitulation. It is sometimes instructive to see a modern poet doing intuitively what poets of an earlier age did self-consciously.

It may also be revealing to compare the use of similes in twentieth-century poetry and in prose fiction, including detective fiction.

Grading Policy

There will be a midterm and a choice of a final exam or a paper; individual reports; and exercises in composing poems that illustrate rhetorical figures.

The course falls under Poetry and Poetics.


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