2006-07, 1st Semester
Level 3000

EL3221 Literary Stylistics
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Course Lecturer: Assoc Prof Ismail S. Talib. E-mail: ellibst@leonis.nus.edu.sg.

EL3221 Programme
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Please note that this module will not be offered in the 200708, 2008–09 and 2009–10 academic years. This page and the site as a whole were designed for the module as it was offered in 2006–07, and would be revised if the module was offered again.

General aim: The general aim of this module is to introduce students to the linguistic and discourse-analytical approaches to style in literary works.
More specific aims:
1) How to enhance thinking and feeling about language through a more qualitative and emotive approach.
2) How to apply some of the concepts learnt to texts covered in the module. Students will also be asked on how these concepts could be applied to other texts.
3) To think critically about the concepts and approaches dealt with in the module.

Helpful modules: There are no prerequisite modules which students must take before doing this module. However, all students are expected to have a grasp of basic issues in linguistics and an interest in literature in English. Prior training in literature may be helpful, but not necessary; however, students should have a sensitivity to the language of literature. Although none of the following modules are essential, students may find some of them helpful: An Introduction to Literary Studies or Literary Appreciation and Criticism (in the EN series); (and in the EL series) The Nature of Language, Structure of Sentences and Meanings and Structure of Sounds and Words.

Relationship of this module to the EL4000 & EL5000 series: As an EL module in the 3000 series, one of the functions of this module is to introduce students to some of the ideas and applications which they may employ in the Honours year programme in English Language. Students intending to do higher degrees may also find the module useful. Some of the lecture notes for this module are in fact used for the EL5221 The Linguistic Analysis of Literature module.  EL5221 builds on the knowledge and application taught in this module. The demands of the graduate module are of course higher and more stringent, and students cover a wider range of literary stylistic interpretation, including a more thorough application of systemic grammar.

Content: It is not possible to do a stylistic analysis of literary works without some basic knowledge of linguistics. Students will be analysing style in literary works by looking at some grammatical categories, such as nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs, amongst others. They will also be analysing the sound features of poetry, and point-of-view and speech and thought presentation in fictional narratives. In the latter part of the module, students will be using some pragmatic concepts for the analysis of literary texts and will consider some linguistic approaches for the study of postcolonial literatures. The lecture sequence for the abovementioned topics and their corresponding weeks during the semester are given in the lecture schedule.

Practical work: Practical work will consist of the following:
1) Class performance, short responses & quizzes (20%)
2) Project (including presentation during one of the sessions) (15%)
3) Take-home essay (15%)
4) IVLE participation (10%)

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Useful Texts

For much of this module, basic knowledge of linguistics and discourse analysis is needed. Brief notes on grammar and discourse analysis are available on the web (for the relevant notes for this module, please refer to the programme). You will also find the following texts useful for some of the lectures in the module:

Carter, Ronald (ed.). Language and Literature. London: Unwin, 1982.
Hasan, Ruqaiya. Linguistics, Language and Verbal Art. Deakin UP, 1985.
Leech, Geoffrey N. A Linguistic Guide to English Poetry. London: Longman, 1969.
--- & M.H. Short. Style in Fiction. London: Longman, 1981.
Talib, Ismail S. The Language of Postcolonial Literatures: An Introduction London: Routledge, 2002.
Wales, Katie. Dictionary of Stylistics. London: Longman, 1989.

Do you want to check the availability and call numbers of the above books at the NUS Library? Click on the following acronym to access the library holdings: LINC.

Useful Cybertexts

With regard to some basic elementary facts of English grammar you may find some of the grammar handouts from the Purdue University On-Line Writing Lab (OWL) and The University of Victoria Writer's Guide to be useful. Also of interest is John Lawler's English Grammar Frequently Asked Questions, as posted to alt.usage.english.

There are, of course, other electronic books or notes which you may find useful (please do not hesitate to inform me of any new additions to the net, or old ones I have missed out). Among them are Jack Lynch's Guide to Grammar and Style and the classic (1918 vintage) Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. Both these books deal with style, but viewed from a different angle: that of production. We will be looking at style from the perspective of reception. Also, they are more prescriptivist and traditional in their approach to grammar than us. However, you will find many of their observations useful, especially in relation to writing your essays.

For information on stylistics, you can visit the Poetics and Linguistics Association Home Page, and for sites of relevance to stylistics, you can visit the links page of the Société de stylistique anglaise. There are also some basic electronic reference books available on the net, such as Webster's Dictionary and Roget's Thesaurus amongst others. For copyright reasons, the Oxford English Dictionary is not available on the net, but students may want to consult the CD Rom version which can conveniently be accessed on NUSNET. For dictionaries of linguistics available on the Web, you may want to take a look at the extensive Lexicon of Linguistics from the University of Utrecht, or Mark H. Nodine's Glossary of Grammatical Terms.

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Suggested Literary Texts for Stylistic Analysis:

Numerous extracts from literary texts will be given during the course of the semester. One of the following works may be used for one of the essays (we will be using option A for the 200607 academic year):

A. Joyce, James. The Dubliners. Ed. by Terence Brown. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1992.

Picture on the left: Joyce as a young man in Dublin.
 Picture on the right: Dublin in 1910, from the cover of your recommended text.

Dubliners is also available on cyberspace.

Click here for the electronic version of the book. You can make use of this version to download any of the stories, conduct word searches (if you download the ASCII version) etc. But for some of you, it may not be a substitute for the hard copy version suggested above. At any rate, the Penguin edition has an Introduction and annotations written by Terence Brown. However, great strides have been made in the Internet guides to the book (see the instructions for the long essay assignment).

The following is an alternative possibility:

B. Mark Twain. Huckleberry Finn. (Most unabridged editions of this novel, including electronic versions, should be acceptable).

Supplementary Readings

Further readings will be given when they are needed during the course of the semester.

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A note to my students (and all readers of these Web pages): As you will notice, much of the notes given here deal with technical concerns. In putting the notes on the Web, I hope that most of the technicalities will be cleared without taking too much of the time during lectures and tutorials. The more important literary stylistic aspects will be dealt with during the actual lectures and tutorials. Interpretations of the selected passages given during the lectures will largely be my own interpretations (and students should learn to develop their own way of thinking, and not to be entirely dependent on their teachers here). This is where the tutorials and essays will play a significant part in moulding your own approach to style in literary texts.

Click here for your lecture schedule.

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© Ismail S. Talib 1995-2009.
Last revised 08 June 2009