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AP English Literature Notes

Dan Parker
9-24 October 2010

1 Style, Tone and Voice


1.1 Tone
- tone refers to the speaker (in poetry) or narrator (in prose) at a single moment
- an emotional attitude created by someone we can identify
- includes emotion or is decribed in emotional terms
- revealed through author’s techniques:
- diction
- figurative language
- syntax
- etc.

1.2 Voice
- voice refers to the speaker or narrator throughout the literary work
- includes personality
- described in terms of character
- either of the speaker or individual characters
- revealed through the same techniques as tone
- often stays constant throughout the entire story

1.3 Style
- style refers to the author’s way of expressing him or herself
- includes personality
- described in character terms
- “voice of the author”, in a way
- often discussed in a very academic, formal way so as not to disrespect the author, an actual person
- still revealed through the same techniques
- more “down to earth”

2 Chapter 15: Evaluating Poetry 1


- Perrine suggests one of the end purposes of reading poetry is to judge its worth
- to do this, ask three questions
1. What is the poem’s central purpose?
2. How fully has this purpose been accomplished?
3. How important is this purpose?
- the remainder of the chapter focuses on question 2

1
- it is difficult to form any type of scale for doing this
- one might be that, if changing the poem in any way could only make it worse, then it is a good poem
- or if the poem’s flaws are outweighed by it’s “positive excellence”
- good poems must also be original
- sentimentality, excessive rhetoric and purely didactic poetry are bad, perhaps more similar to verse
than true poetry
sentimentality: indulgence in emotion for its own sake or expression of more emotion than is warranted
- this usually over-simplifies, thus not communicating experience well, the objective of poetry
rhetoric: using more high-blown language than is warranted
- the writing appears empty because it is style with out the backing of substance
- both of these cause triteness
didacticism: explicitly teachy or preachy poetry
- most poetry is subtly didactic, but it is bad if this figures overtly in the experience
- Perrine concludes with some more advice
- it is hard to judge, and distinctions are always subtle
- agreement is not necessary
- form your own opinion first

3 Chapter 16: Evaluating Poetry 2 — Poetic Excellence


- this section focuses on the third question asked in Chapter 15
- according to Perrine, “great poetry engages the whole person — sense, imagination, emotion, intellect
- great poetry gives us new insights into the human experience
- it is difficult to judge what constitutes truly great poetry
- you can only become better at judging, and only a little
- “success brings enormous personal and aesthetic rewards”