By Barbara Comyns
The tale of the Willoweed relations and the English village within which they dwell. It starts mid-flood, geese swimming within the drawing room home windows, "quacking their approval" as they sail round the room. Then the miller drowns himself . . . Then the butcher slits his throat . . . and a sequence of grotesque deaths plagues the villagers. The newspaper asks, "Who can be obsessed with this deadly insanity next?"
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Additional info for Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead
Instead of combining these varied concerns at once in the act of reading, Burke contends that a layered approach functions best to illuminate one’s interpretation of the text. In this system, Burke links Poetics with Grammar, Rhetoric, and Ethics, while cautioning that each should be used distinctly, not in concert, during critical analysis. For Burke, Grammar relates to content, to literature as a source of information; Rhetoric focuses on response, or upon the power a given text may have to enact change; Poetics attends to the aesthetic, to the idea of what may be defined as beautiful; and, finally, Ethics involves moral value, the way a text may capture the ethical dimensions of a given life.
Despite Brook’s assertion in ‘The Formalist Critic’ that ‘form and content cannot be separated’ because ‘form is meaning’ (72), modernist humanism resides at the heart of formalism. While form and content cannot be parsed from one another and clearly form has a direct impact upon meaning, nonetheless, formalist critics do not choose indiscriminately the forms they praise. Instead, humanist principles appear to direct the critic in the kinds of art studied and the elements praised. ‘The whole story is the meaning,’ Flannery O’Connor declares, ‘because it is an experience, not an abstraction’ (Mystery and Manners 73), and the experiences that formalist critics doggedly seek after tend to be those that carry the reader toward a contemplation of human struggles and triumphs, emotional toil and joy.
2 Russian Formalism, Mikhail Bakhtin, Heteroglossia, and Carnival There can be neither a first nor last meaning; it always exists among other meanings as a link in the chain of meaning, which in its totality is the only thing that can be real. In historical life, this chain continues infinitely, and therefore each individual link in it is renewed again and again, as though it were reborn. (Mikhail M. Bakhtin, Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics 1) As with American and British variations of formalist criticism, the historical confluence of Russian Formalism, the Moscow Linguistics Circle, and the Prague Structuralists in the first three decades of the twentieth century acted as one of the most significant and formative influences upon the direction of literary theory and criticism during the latter half of the century.