Howl (published in Howl and Other Poems 1956): Beats: transitions writers between Modernists and postmodernists. Chose the margin of the establishment, embraced and idolised the social outcasts like blacks or drug addicts.In their works: search for spiritual liberation, emphasis on orality on the poem as a performance rather than for-the-page: the text living of its own rather than on the books. Poetry composed to be read aloud in clubs, Ginsberg would find in jazz patterns a suitable rhythmic structure for his poems and Howl is composed of lines that remind of jazz improvisation. Denunciation of modern life and defence of marginal figures. Free verse which often entails a substitute rhythmic pattern to compensate for the loss of musical power that follows the elimination of rhyme and rhythm.The attempted cultural homogenization after World War II focuses around the American identity and ideology because of the institutionalised life that resulted of the Cold War (image of the white, heterosexual, married with a family and profession), everything that did belong to this group was seen as threat to the Aemrcian way of life and to western values. Stylistic features of Ginsberg:Breath units: poetic and meditative system by which each line is the equivalent to one breath. Each breath contains the meaningful moment of life. Each line independent and unrelated to the poem as a metric whole. This device allows Ginsberg to include any kind of theme in his poetry. He used the following mechanisms to create rhythm: Anaphora: rhythmic and rhyming mechanism. Repetition of a word or an entire phrase. Creates a driving rhythm by the repetition of the same sound and can intensify the rhythm of the poem. Rhythm of first section marked by who; in the second Moloch is used many times as anaphoric device.Parallelism and repetition: forceful devices in Howl. Reiteration of ideas, words, sounds and syntactic structures provide an internal rhyme that replaces the tyranny of end rhyme while it enlivens the musicality of the verse form. Ginsberg poems resemble song or chants with the purpose of awakening the reader’s response to dance.Juxtaposition of images: fusion of incongruous images to present a shocking, surrealist reality which allows challenging the reader’s rational assumptions and expectations. Awkward juxtapositions are made, the natural and the organic, the divide and the unholy, the spiritually high and low.Allusions: ref to events or people normally known by the audience. The poet creates a network of cultural ref harpies (bird/woman), Blake-light tragedy, Dadaism, biblical (angels, epiphanies, crucifixions, the flood), personal ones (Carl Salomon, my mother in the insane asylum).Parataxis: connecting clauses without using conjunction, to string them into a discursive juxtaposition, thus he achieves a litany-like (kind of prayer) composition. Paronomasia or puns: figure of speech that deliberately exploits confusion between similar-sounding words for humorous or rhetorical effect, e.g. “El” : NY elevated trains/ Hebrew word for God. “Wall”: Wall Street/Wailing Wall (Jerusalem) Title: howl (expresses pain, sorrow and anger),its opening lines defines the beat generation and it exposes and explores the madmen of his time “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness,...” The first part censures the lamentable damage done to the poet’s contemporaries. Second: poet sings screed against “Moloch”. The third part asserts the solidarity of the poet with the mad especially toward Carl Salomon, to whom the poem was initially dedicated. Howl is a Beat manifesto; it is a literary criticism of the unbalancing effects of modern culture and the Eisenhower period. It depicts America as spiritually empty and the ruined caused by Moloch (Ginsberg’s image to represent greed and industrialisation, also reference to Well’s Time Machine). The poem presents a social reality in which the limits between belonging and being excluded of society are harshly marked by cultural conventions. Ending: abrupt, unpunctuated, as if the voice carrying the howl has been extinguished, or as if stopped by a sudden awakening or collapse. Style: influenced by Whitman’s influence: long line structure, incantatory repetitions and syncopated rhythms. Poe: hypnotic musicality, long line (Raven), which inspired Ginsberg’s theory of get-together (body/mind) through poetic composition and reading (reading a long line implies both a physical and a mental act). Influenced by jazz as a rhythmic structure for his poems especially those that required the musicians breath power to be played. The rhythmic patterns are shaped by the use of anaphora, since its repetition function to keep the beat. Each line starts with the anaphoric phrase and then explores different emotions, ideas, concepts, etc. thus one them serves as the base for each improvisation (like in jazz) that returns to a certain pattern. Imagery: desolate, to give the idea of estrangement. Full of images about madness, religion, mental institutions (Rockland, straightjacket). Images are juxtaposed (placed side to side) to cause a shocking and surrealist impression, e.g. abyss/void, soul/body. In the third part we find allusions to sin, to repentance, to the death of Jesus (Golgotha hill where he was crucified), his resurrection. This part reveals the Beat spirit because Ginsberg spreads the limits of the mental institution Rockland to include the whole contemporary America. He juxtaposes the spiritual emptiness of the modern life with mental breakdown. We also perceive the Beats interest in outcasts, in this part the madmen. Entropy: Thomas Pynchon. This work challenges the readers’ literary expectations and forces their revision by the active participation of the reader in the construction of the meaning. This story must be perceived as a challenging instrument, a subversive device that question several systems, science, religion, literature, etc. We must bear in mind that in the 60s and the 70s fiction seemed to be exhausted, heat-dead. Pynchon tries to give prominence to how assumed ideas, based on tradition and convention, can be resisted. The term “entropy” can influence our reading of the story, since it refers to more than one thing. On one hand it refers to Thermodynamic entropy, an energy that isn’t available to produce work and that is related to chaos and disorder. On the other hand it refers to communication entropy, the loss of info in the transmission of a message. The familiarity with the terms allows us to interpret what is going on in each setting. Spatial disposition: highly relevant to the story. Binary setting for the unfolding of events: Meatball’s apartment which can be defined as a highly disordered place. Callisto’s apartment is a closed system designed to resist the heat-death (the point of exhaustion of energy). Both settings opposed the uniformity of outside, Callisto by sealing his apartment to avoid the heat-death he presupposes outside, an exhaustion of energy. Meatball’s apartment is open to a wide range of characters (white noise), nevertheless both prove unsuccessful. Cultural references: setting Washington D.C. 1957. Reflects the Red Scare Time (leftist ideas were considered threatening). Allusions to cultural heterogeneity o the moment. Musical imagery: ineffectual communication is neutralised by musical patterns. Music supplies organized structures of sound that create meaning and harmony. Fugue-like structure, a theme is stated and then reiterated by a second voice. Aubade’s characters senses all acoustic input at sound, as against the noise that pervades the story. Musical imagery permeates the narrative until the “graceful diminuendo” of the bird’s heartbeat announces a closure in narrative and existential terms. In music this moment of tension in a fugue is called “peal point”, there are two types, the dominant (increasing tension) and tonic (releasing tension), two concepts that are mentioned in the last line of the story. Humor: ubiquitous, presents absurd situations (girl drowning, boy going through the window, water paper bags thrown, thought provoking names: meatball, Sandor Rojas, Aubade). Diverting tone by exploring serious issues through weird characters. Many characters in Meatball’s wild party have responsibilities in national institutions but are portrayed as pitiful and unproductive figures (e.g. government girls, the ex-Hungarian freedom fighter described as a salivating Don Giovanni). Normal characterization frames are challenged by drawing on irony. Callisto’s autobiography: is dictated to Aubade so that an overall narrative voice is not necessary for the provision of a framework that accounts for Callisto’s strange life. By the use of a third person Pynchon merges his authorial voice with the one of Callisto, providing an exercise of bleniding. Characterization: it is minimal because the space and action convey all the information that readers need to know. Pynchon doesn’t give any extra-details about the characters’ background by making Callisto himself supply those details. Language: as well as in Raymond Carver’s Cathedral, language is incapable to describe reality and the arbitrary system that language is. There is an arbitrary relationship between signifier and signifie and a multiplicity of signified related to signifier (polisemy). All this can lead to misunderstanding and incapacity of communication or creation of meaning. In addition to this we find the concept of entropy in communication and the one of “white noise” or the excess of communicative acts that difficult understanding. These failure can lead people to stop communication and isolate themselves. Pynchon uses music to avoid these problems of language and communication because music supplies organized structure of sound that create harmony.
“Snapshot of a daughter-in-law” 1963- Adrienne Rich. The structure, language and theme of this poem aim the liberation from male-dominated patterns and traditions. Written in free verse and divided in ten sections, each “snapshot” reveals a female state of mind and it proclaims women’s position in society, it challenges and dismisses preconception and stereotypes. The poem’s title suggests a fragmentary construction and the idea that only by marrying a man does the daughter in law exist. Each of the poems composing the volume is to be viewed as a photograph, a still moment captured from life acknowledging and proclaiming the importance of each historical moment and context. Throughout her career, Rich has been concerned with a distinctively postmodern issue: that of language as a social construct, a structure that reveals itself as male-controlled as history. The struggle to find a real female language has condemned women writers to choose between adapting to the male discourse or to complete silence. Rich had stated that till that moment she had been writing under the influence of the male men, anger and imagery of the monstrous shaped the initial feminist consciousness of her poetry. Another postmodern issue is her exploration of political and emotional concerns and the adoption of Dickinson’s fragmentariness verse. Style: allusive. Simone de Beauvoir (writer and philosopher) and Emily Dickinson (about her concern with confinement and the power of imagination), twofold meaning of loaded gun (creative power contained in the gun of imagination and violence shared by the overall tone of the poem)
Imagery: the final snapshot is truly pictorial, the vision that it conveys relates a downward movement of the “she” who is to come, a falling action whose sharpness is represented by the blade-like ending of the poem. It’s final words graphically look like a pointed instrument. The use of “you” instead of “I” is a rhetorical strategy that intensifies the dramatic form she employs, the pronouns refers to the daughter-in-law figure but can refer to any woman that fits what the poem proposes. The first stanza depicts a woman remembering her youth and vanity, she is a passive southern belle; the poem ends with an active challenger. At the beginning we find confined spaces of the domestic sphere but the poem moves on towards the open air mobility of the final section. The fact of seeing the home as an ideal space for women is highly criticised in the poem, instead the home is portrayed as restraining, irritating (angry tone of the angels advising her) and mentally unbalancing (bangs the coffee pot in the sink) (woman burns herself with steam, with water). The poem exhibits polivocality or array of voices by assuming the voices of other silenced women, the linguistic “she” figure in the poem is silent, physically active but linguistically quiet. Reversion is a powerful and empowering instrument for woman (section 9: mere talent was enough for us-glitter in fragments and rough drafts). writers which allows and instead of creating a wax-winged Icarus that can rise with limitations she gives birth to a bladed woman who descends, sharp-pointed, and ready to leave the mark.