Studying The Realistic Forms Of Poetry English Literature Essay


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The purpose of this extended essay is to explore the "reality" that poetry, as an artistic form, is associated with, by examining the question "What do language related aesthetic qualities possess that makes them different than non-aesthetic qualities, namely in poetry, and what is their ultimate ontological status?" The reality disclosed above encompasses the poet's experiences that are rooted in the world and that are then manufactured, through the use of aesthetically charged language, into poetic forms available for the experience of others. When questioning the reality of an entity, one automatically deals with its ontological status. The ontological status of a poem then rests in it being an aesthetically charged linguistic carrier of meaning that is consistently figurative. Thus, in order to understand the meaning associated with poetry specifically, one must explore the figurative language poetry embodies and the way in which it manifests in the conscience, primarily the psyche, and how, through emotion, it connects to human experience.

The paper starts by evaluating types of figurative language through the use of exemplary poetic devices. Aesthetically charged language is separated from "everyday" language, and the way in which both impact meaning is established. While language that lacks aesthetic qualities is still a carrier of meaning, the extent to which it is able to portray abstract entities is evaluated and found to be less than in the case of aesthetically charged language, a claim against Bernard Lonergan's in Philosophical and Theological Papers.

The issue with appearances and the probability of different realities being aroused by poems to diverse individuals due to different interpretations is assessed, giving rise to numerous ideas of the ontological status of a poem that branch off. Nevertheless, one central idea keeps the branches together - the experience of the poet to which the reader connects.

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The loosely used term "art" can be categorized, for the purpose of this paper, as an expressive form created from our perception through senses and imagination, and what it expresses is human feeling. Individuals experiencing art are seeking to know realities that are efforts by persons, namely artists, to give a publicly accessible expression to a private experience, which is the reality associated with art - the actual and universal experience the artist is expressing. Aesthetic qualities possess the power of evoking emotions in humans upon sensory perception, emotions generated from the state of being conscious and from the metaphorical level of the poem. The research question for this paper is "What do language related aesthetic qualities possess that makes them different than non-aesthetic qualities, namely in poetry, and what is their ultimate ontological status?" The term "ontological status" deals with the nature of being, existence or reality of the poem experienced, a reality ultimately evaluated through this paper. When dealing with the ontological status of a poem, we will not look at it from the perspective of the paper itself being real and existing - to be intelligible and actual - rather the poem possessing meaning that has a figurative reality. The ontological status of a poem then rests in it being an aesthetically charged linguistic carrier of meaning that is consistently figurative. Thus, in order to understand the meaning associated with poetry specifically, one must explore the figurative language poetry embodies and the way in which it manifests in the conscience, primarily the psyche, and how, through emotion, it connects to human experience.

The two purposes of art, to express emotions and to capture reality, are ultimately skewed in trying to capture the ideas and physical aspects through symbolic two-dimensional media. While not aiming to deceive, poetry alludes frequently to more abstract subjects, often arriving at greater fundamental struggles of mortality and the human condition. Thus, what poetry accomplishes in aesthetics, it loses in exactness due to its figurative language used to convey meaning. However, meaning in this paper will not just simply stand to imply knowledge about the human condition and the universals, but rather being what we bring our attention to in our conscious-intentional acts on a basic level. Meanings may be intelligent or unintelligent, reasonable or unreasonable, responsible or irresponsible. In a poem being aesthetically charged there is a fundamental aspect of figurative language, effectively emphasizing and exaggerating meaning through numerous aspects known as poetic devices, encompassing irony, metaphor, personification, anaphora (the repetition of the same words or phrases at the beginning of several words), caesura (a strong pause falling within a verse), metonymy, synecdoche, etc. The latter two are essentially examples of implicit comparisons, figures of speech used in rhetoric in which an aspect is not called by its own name, but by the name of something intimately associated with that aspect. Metonymy uses the substitution of one word for another closely related word, for example, "The pot is boiling" instead of "The water in the pot is boiling". The distinction between metonymy and synecdoche lies in that a synecdoche considers the resemblance of two objects being close to each other, such as "All hands on deck", where variable x is the sailor and variable y is the hand, where the two are closely associated to the point where a sailor becomes a hand in the figure of speech. A synecdoche, is similar to metonymy, yet different in that it deals more so with the abstract rather than actual. It is a commonly employed poetic device in sonnets, especially the love sonnets, where a portion of the beloved's anatomy stands in for her entirety (Laskowski, R. Jane, Synecdoche). All figures of speech stimulate he imagination rather than the dry academic language, portraying the aesthetically charged aspects of poetry to the point where it becomes a carrier of meaning beyond the literal interpretation of language. For example, the use of enjambment (known as the "striding over" of one line of poetry to the next) can be used to emphasize the aspect of a journey throughout the poem, allowing the reader to connect to such a meaning through the use of structural devices, sometimes not relying on language alone, but also on the physical structure of the poem. The literal interpretation of language (sometimes referred to as the simple language lacking aesthetics in this paper) means, in the first place, the mother tongue. As that, it is the most practical subject in the world; you cannot understand anything or take any part in society without it. However, every mother tongue turns into something called literature, which is the second meaning of language (Frye, 3), and is in this paper explored in depth through poetry. Examples of aesthetically charged language are abundant within Shakespeare's plays, especially Hamlet.

This paper focuses on poetry, and even though Shakespeare's Hamlet is a dramatic play, the language in it shifts from being blank verse in nature to poetic, attaining the figurative language needed in order to be an aesthetically charged carrier of meaning during its poetic shifts. For example, Shakespeare begins the play with a question, "Who's there?" (Hamlet, I, i, 1) On the most literal and basic level, Bernardo asks a question that is asked every day under the most innocent pretexts. Nevertheless, on a more fundamental level, it sets the play's philosophical nature by bringing the audience's attention to asking themselves "Who is there? Who are we? What is man?" This is an example where relatively simple language, being free from the apparent aesthetic qualities disclosed previously is able to have the audience's attention drawn and orient them in some direction as to the play's tone. By starting the play with a question, the overall tone of uncertainty and ambiguity is set. Aesthetically charged language is a part of the poetic devices disclosed previously, however, only in the cases of metaphors and devices concerning the actual language. Poetic devices also concern structural elements used to create aesthetics which also contribute to the meaning generated by the poem, though indirectly relating to language. The audience's attention is thus attained from aesthetically charged language and structural elements, giving rise to conscious intending (basic meaning of orienting yourself in some direction, to have your attention drawn somewhere) on the audience's part. Working backwards, the presence of conscious intending illustrates the presence of a conscious state; that is to say, a moment of awareness where you are simply experiencing something. You did not generate it and you are not the author of it. It must be highlighted, however, that the attention drawn by the audience in the case of the opening scene of Hamlet is not an example of a conscious act even though it is a moment of experience because they did not experience the opening scene as a personal performance they were responsible for. Rather, the performer himself did. Through the presence of conscious intending triggered by language, given its artistic context, the simple presence of mere consciousness (any moment of awareness) is observed. Therefore, a link between language lacking apparent aesthetic qualities and consciousness, and in turn, the psyche, is made. By triggering conscious aspects that are associated with emotions, aesthetically charged language stimulates the psyche and divides humans from animals, who do not possess the psyche and thus cannot be influenced by aesthetics.

Through the opening line in Hamlet, one observes the way in which language, not necessarily possessing aesthetically charged poetic qualities, assists in the development of abstract subjects, arriving at a larger fundamental struggle of mortality. However, such language only assists the development, and cannot individually stand on its own as a carrier of meaning proving the ontological status of poetry simply because the language itself is not classified as poetic, lacking aesthetic qualities. Simple language is able to generate meaning, but it is only the aesthetically charged language that is a carrier of meaning leading to the piece's ontological status and that possesses the previously disclosed transcendental reality - a reality going beyond and not being bound by the limitations of literal interpretation. Heavily aesthetically charged language can be observed in Hamlet's soliloquy (Hamlet, III, i, 58-90) for it portrays his most logical and powerful questioning of the morals involved in the commitment of suicide in an unbearably painful world. Hamlet poses the problem of whether to commit suicide as a logical question "To be, or not to be," (Hamlet, III, I, 58) that is, to live or not to live. He weighs the morality associated with both living and dying by questioning whether or not it is nobler to suffer life, which is personified as "[t]he slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" (Hamlet, III, i, 60). Shakespeare compares death to sleep and highlights the uncertainty it might bring - "[t]he heartache, and the thousand natural shocks / That flesh is heir to" (Hamlet, III, i, 64-65). Based on this metaphor, he decides that suicide is a desirable course of action, "a consummation / Devoutly to be wished" (Hamlet, III, i, 65-66). Nevertheless, as the religious word "devoutly" signifies, there is more to the question, namely, what will happen in the afterlife. Hamlet immediately realizes as much, and Shakespeare reconfigures the metaphor of sleep to include the possibility of dreaming. He says that the dreams that may come in the sleep of death are daunting, that they "must give us pause" (Hamlet, III, i, 68). He then decides that the uncertainty of the afterlife, which is intimately related to the theme of the difficulty of attaining truth in a spiritually ambiguous world, is essentially what prevents all of humanity from committing suicide to end the pain of life. The speech connects many of the play's main themes, including the idea of suicide and death, the difficulty of knowing the truth in a spiritually ambiguous universe, and the connection between thought and action. The "themes" are all examples of abstract ideas highlighted through figurative language, more specifically through metaphors as illustrated in the example above. The ontological status of poetry starts to be seen when someone else's abstract ideas (the "creator's", namely the writers or poet's, which, in this case is Shakespeare) manage to be expressed aesthetically through language creating a meaning, and when that meaning is able to be experienced by another individual different from the creator. Language then serves as the medium used to transfer meaning from one individual to another through aesthetic expression.

When looking at poetry, however, the language in the poem itself is not the only mediator for meaning, though it is the most effective. The form and structure of the poem also contribute to the meaning generated, and even though poetry's main carrier of meaning is linguistic, it is important to note the physical arrangement of poetry on a piece a paper. The visual arrangement contributes to the poem's aesthetic characteristics connecting poetry to paintings and other mediums encompassing visual and physical characteristics used to emphasize meaning. For example, Grace Chua's "(love song, with two goldfish)" (QLRS Vol. 2 No. 2) is a poem that effectively uses brackets around each stanza in order to illustrate the visual presence of a fish bowl, which contributes to the idea of the entrapment of the two fish. In order to see the poem in its entirety and note the way in which structure contributes to meaning, a copy of the poem is enclosed in Appendix A. The language used in the poem is extremely accessible, due to its relative modernity, especially when comparing it to the extract previously chosen from Hamlet by Shakespeare. Even though the language is accessible, that is not to say is lacks in aesthetics and thus language is not used to convey meaning to the extent it is conveyed in the extract from Hamlet due to its higher use of figurative language. Linguistic aesthetics in poems do not necessarily have to be achieved through firm metaphors and be rich in ambiguity in order to be considered aesthetic carriers of meaning. For example, Chua writes that "[h]e [the fish] wishes / she [the other fish] would sing, not much, just the scales" (Chua, line 4). To the inattentive reader, the lines are free from figurative language. However, the attentive reader is able to recognize the pun made with the word "scales", which is an aesthetic quality that adds to the meaning of the poem. On a basic level it refers to the scales of the actual fish, but figuratively, and through interpretation on the reader's side, the scales mentioned by Chua disclose the scales of justice and of life.

The poem is full of such puns, for example when Chua writes on lines eight and nine that "she [the fish] makes fish eyes / and kissy lips" (Chua, line 9-10), which contribute to the poem's humorous tone for of course "she" would make fish eyes; "she" is a fish after all, and fish have fish eyes. The attentive reader is able to notice the puns and understand how they contribute to the meaning of the poem for the puns are human constructs which we use in everyday language. By Chua integrating the puns in the lives of two goldfish, she not only personifies them as undergoing actions committed by humans in everyday life, but also portrays the way in which relatively simple and accessible language can be used figuratively in order to aesthetically create meaning free from concrete, ambiguous metaphors. Poetry, and literature in general, written in different time frames use different methods deemed by different societal constructs in order to aesthetically portray meaning. One cannot evaluate which language (modern, such as in the case of Chua, or more traditional, such as in the case of Shakespeare) is the better carrier of meaning, for different societal criteria corresponding to different time frames was imposed on each. Nevertheless, the language used has to be aesthetically charged in order to leave room for interpretation in the reader's case. The poem's ontological status rests in the experience generated from the creator's expression, and it is achieved on an aesthetic level. The poetic devices used have to match the conventions set by society at the time the works were written for that way, the individuals that set the standard are able to connect to the works, and thus, connect to the writer's experience, which is ultimately the ontological status of poetry.

Bernard Lonergan portrays simple, everyday language lacking aesthetic qualities, as the most conspicuous, the most refined, the most far-reaching, and the most versatile (Lonergan, 110) carrier of meaning, more influential than intersubjectivity. Lonergan coins the term "intersubjectivity" as the communication between people whose meaning arises spontaneously, such as the meaning of a smile, which could either be recognition, welcome, friendliness, love, joy, delight, etc. However, how can everyday language be the most refined carrier of meaning when it lacks aesthetic qualities? Simple language is needed in order to make plain communication between individuals possible, perhaps the perspective from which Lonergan sees language as most the most effective carrier of meaning. Language lacking aesthetic qualities (not the kind used in poetry) does carry meaning, but the meaning associated with it is significantly less than the one evoked by intersubjectivity and art (thus, poetry) which possess an incarnate, figurative meaning. Everyday language is not more influential in the meaning carried than intersubjectivity and art combined for it only exists on a literal level, while the latter two possess a reality that transcends through experience and conscious acts, being what really defines their ontological status.

Words themselves are a dead human construct, and if not given aesthetic qualities, they cannot have a transcendental reality, thus not fulfilling the ontological status reached by "art" and just exist as words on paper not successfully stimulating a conscious act. Aesthetic language can only exist in the form of transcendental idealism since the appearances of emotions are to be regarded as being one and all, representations only of the abstract (Setiya, 63). Since emotions are intangible, the only way of communicating about them is through the representation of what we think they are (based on each individual's personal experience) and not what they truly are when they exist as an entity free from personal interpretation. The claim that they are "representations" might be the claim that they can be "somehow" reduced to mental representations, or it might be the claim that they exist only as things represented - as mere intentional objects. Either way, their existence (such as it is) depends on something mental (Setiya, 65).

The issue with appearances is that their ontological status cannot be successfully evaluated for they exist as "appearing" for another aspect that is unknown, unless one assumes that the appearance is a true representation of what the unknown aspect stands for, especially in the case of emotions. For example, the creation of art came out of imperfection; out of humans' need to express abstract experiences not otherwise capable of expression if only existing on a literal level. It came out of a striving and a frustration, essentially where language came from - our desire to transcend our isolation and have some sort of connection with one another. It was relatively easier when language existed only for the purpose of survival and labelling certain items such as "water", for which we came up with a sound for and which still possessed meaning. However, aesthetically charged language arose only when we used the same system of symbols (that were previously used for survival, basic communication, etc.) and tried to communicate all the abstract and intangible aspects that we are experiencing. For example, what is frustration, or anger, or love? When one says "love", the sound comes out of their mouth and it hits the other person's ear, travelling through their Byzantine conduit in their brain, through their memories of love or lack of love, and they register what is being said and they answer that yes, they understand. However, how does one know they truly understand seeing as words are just inert symbols, and most of our experience is intangible? So much of what we perceive cannot be expressed, yet aesthetically charged language is the one that comes closest to expressing differing personal experience through the triggering of human emotion, the reality associated with art.

The issue with appearances can be elaborated through the exploration of the argument from illusion (Berkley, 542), which justifies some form of subjective realism - a term in this case relating to the level of interpretation present when dealing with aesthetics in general which can function to alter meaning, and thus, the ontological status of a work. It rests on the fact that things sometimes appear different to different observers or to the same observer in different circumstances; such as in the case when one views what our society claims to be a masterpiece. If the same painting seems to evoke a different feeling each time it is viewed by the same person, it is then classified as a masterpiece, the same being true with poetry. However, the relativist fallacy (Rorty, 443) argues against the argument from illusion and refutes it by disclosing the fact that a person rejecting a claim by asserting that the claim might be true for others but it is not for him is fallacious in nature. Nonetheless, that is not to say that we can fully disregard the argument from illusion. The relativism fallacy seems to deal with concrete facts, such as in the case of mathematics (which similar to language, is a human construct) while the argument from illusion addresses truth as a continuum of values based on imprecise data, and they are both used in different scenarios. For example, opinions on the arts would lean towards the argument from illusion and opinions on mathematics would lean towards the relativist fallacy, for it is considered to be a more exact knowledge area when comparing it to the arts, even though mathematics themselves are a human construct and can only be as exact as human imperfection allows. Thus, it has been seen that differing interpretations arise due to subjective realism, contributing to personal meaning evoked from poetry and the arts in general because they possess aesthetic qualities.

An answer to the research question disclosed in the introduction, "What do language related aesthetic qualities possess that makes them different than non-aesthetic qualities, namely in poetry, and what is their ultimate ontological status?" was disclosed. After disclosing the ontological status of a poem as being an aesthetically charged linguistic carrier of meaning, examples of figurative language and how it impacted meaning were explored. It was noted that the part of our conscience that aesthetic language triggers is the psyche, for it is the area in which emotions manifest, thus separating humans from animals on that level. The aesthetic elements identified in literature are not simply well crafted turns of phrases or expressive images - although such things exist - but rather emergent qualities that become salient when appropriate attention is directed to the works. Such an attention was interpreted as the meaning generated from the works, which became most important in the presence of aesthetic qualities. It separated language into two categories; language lacking aesthetic qualities, used in everyday speech on a literal level part of the mother tongue, and language that eventually turned into literature when expressed figuratively. The ontological status of poetry rests in the latter for it is the most successful in allowing the reader or individual experiencing the creator's work (in the case of a play possessing poetic dialogues and soliloquies) in connecting with the creator's experience through the emotion conveyed. The ontological status of a poem then rests in it being an aesthetically charged linguistic carrier of meaning that is consistently figurative. Thus, in order to understand the meaning associated with poetry specifically, one must explore the figurative language poetry embodies and the way in which it manifests in the conscience, primarily the psyche, and how, through emotion, it connects to human experience. There is a sensory perception involved in discerning such aesthetic qualities and ultimately it is a source of pleasure when an individual is able to connect to the abstract ideas portrayed in the work of art. An artist, then, expresses feeling, but not in the way a politician blows off steam or a baby laughs and cries. He formulates that elusive aspect of reality that is commonly taken to be amorphous and chaotic; that is, he objectifies the subjective realm (Langer, 24). What he expresses is, therefore, not his own actual feelings, but what he knows about human feeling. Once he is in possession of rich symbolism, that knowledge may actually exceed his entire personal experience. A work of art expresses a conception of life, emotion, inward reality. However, it is neither a confessional nor a frozen tantrum; it is a developed metaphor, a non-discursive symbol that articulates what is verbally ineffable-the logic of consciousness itself.

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