An analysis of Elizabeth Jennings’s "One flesh" : poem as product and process

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Journal article

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Journal of Literary Semantics

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This paper attempts to exemplify a double-faceted approach to analysis of a short poem by Elizabeth Jennings. It begins traditionally by posing the question "what impression does the poem make and what are the linguistic means by which this impression is created?" This question, it is suggested, can have two kinds of answer, depending on whether the poem is treated as a product/object to be viewed from a distance, or as a process of reading. Section 1 of this paper considers the linguistic features which are salient when we treat the poem as an object, and which are responsible for the overall impression, at a distance. The paper continues, in section 2, by considering the traditional notion of foregrounding, demonstrating how the last sentence of the poem is multiply foregrounded. In Section 3 the paper shows that in the case of this particular poem the effect of foregrounding is best explained in terms of text as process, rather than product, that is in terms of the impressions made in the course of a reading. To do this it analyses the ways in which syntax processing, arrest and release function; how transitions from one discourse unit to another are signalled and recognized by the reader; how the reader's expectations are constantly being defeated and undermined, through conflicting presuppositions, and through the use of non-factive and negative linguistic devices. The paper concludes with a pragmatic exploration of the nature of the final foregrounded question, showing how it represents the culmination of the doubts expressed earlier, while, paradoxically, seeming to express certainty.



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Copyright © Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG 2005. Access to external full text or publisher's version may require subscription.

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Goatly, A. (2005). An analysis of Elizabeth Jennings’s "One flesh": Poem as product and process. Journal of Literary Semantics, 34(2), 139-163. doi: 10.1515/jlse.2005.34.2.139