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Free Help for Responsible Reading

The difference between the responsible study of world literature and the idle love of reading is found in the reader’s intentions when reading. The idle reader looks to be entertained and he gives attention to the characters and events of the story. This reading is the equivalent of watching a television show–and reading, for such a reader, is little more than that. The responsible reader understands that he is reading the work of a human writer and he gives his attention to the author and his methods in writing. He does not seek to be entertained like a child, but to learn the art of writing from a master that he may imitate it in producing his own works.

In the Classical Liberal Arts Academy’s English Literature courses, I work to make sure students are reading responsibly by requiring them to give primary attention to the author and his methods, rather than to the characters and events of the story. This is done through reading comprehension questions which challenge students to read responsibly and academically, rather than idly.

One of the characteristics of the masters that I challenge students to attend to is the user of rhetorical figures. Since we are reading works in English translation, we cannot attend to the grammatical figures employed by the original author, but we can observe the rhetorical figures he employs. To help students with this, I provide an printable outline of these devices.

Analysis & Imitation

I. Figures of Speech

A figure of speech is a deviation from the literal, or common, form of expression.  Figures bear the same relation to seech that decorations  bear to architecture. The figures of speech which are most frequently employed may be divided into two classes:

A. Grammatical Figures

  1. Ellipsis
    1. of Letters is the omission of such letters or words as are necessary to complete the sense and construction.  Normally, this is done to affect the rhythm and meter of the language.  
      1. Aphaeresis, or the omission of a letter or letters from the beginning of a word; as, ‘gan for began. 
      2. Syncope, or the omission of a letter or letters from the middle of a word; as, lov’d for loved.
      3. Apocope, or the omission of a letter or letters from the end of a word ; as, tho’ for though. 
    2. of Words
      1. Of Relative Pronouns; as, This is the letter I wrote, for This is the letter which I wrote, 
      2. Of Conjunctions; as, He came, saw, conquered, for He came, and saw, and conquered. 
      3. of Clauses, as, Astonishing! for This is astonishing!
  2. Enallage signifies a change of words. The two most common forms of enallage are the following : 
    1. One Part of Speech for Another; as, The wind blows soft o’er Ceylon’s isle. 
    2. One Case for Another; as, A president than whom none was more beloved. 
  3. Pleonasm consists in the use of more words than are necessary; as, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

B.  Rhetorical Figures

  1. Simile is a comparison of objects based upon resemblance; as, Friendship is like the sun’s eternal rays. 
  2. Metaphor is an implied comparison or an abridged simile; as, Athens, the eye of Greece, Mother of arts and eloquence. 
  3. Antithesis is a comparison based upon contrast; as, Ignorance is the curse of God — knowledge, the wing wherewith we fly to heaven. 
  4. Allegory is an extended metaphor, in which the figure runs through an entire work; as, The Pilgrim’s Progress.  Among the varieties of allegory are — 
    1. Parables, based upon possibilties, as found in the Sacred Scriptures ; 
    2. Fables, based upon impossibilties, as found in profane history. Ex. Aesop’s Fables. 
  5. Metonymy is a figure in which one object is described by the name of another.  It may exist in four forms: 
    1. Cause for Effect; as, “Ye have Moses and the prophets.” That is, the names of authors (causes) used for writings (effects). 
    2. Effect for Cause; as, “There is death in the cup.” That is, death (effect) used instead of poison (cause). 
    3. Container for the Contents; as, “The miser loves his purse.” That is, purse (container) for money.
    4. Sign for its Object; as, “The pen is the civilizer of the world.” That is, pen (sign) for literature, or the spread of knowledge (object). 
  6. Synecdoche is a figure in which a name is given to an object that suggests more or less than we intend.  Synecdoche may take either of two forms : 
    1. Part for the Whole; as, “No European keel had entered the harbor.” That is, keel (part) for vessel (whole).
    2. Whole for a Part; as, “All the world wondered.” That is, world (whole) for people (part).
  7. Personification is that figure in which the attributes of living beings are ascribed to things inanimate.  Personification may exist:
    1. in the Use of an Adjective ; as, “The rippling, laughing brooks flow merrily on”. 
    2. in the Use of a Verb; as, “How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!” 
  8. Apostrophe is a figure in which the absent is addressed as though present. Apostrophe may be:
    1. Pure Apostrophe; as, “Absalom, I would God I had died for thee!” 
    2. Personified Apostrophe; as, “Roll on, thou deep and dark blue ocean, roll.” 
  9. Hyperbole is a figure in which the object is either exaggerated or disparaged; as, “The diamonds in thine eyes might furnish crowns for all the queens of earth.” 
  10. Irony is a figure employed to express the opposite of the idea entertained; as, “For Brutus is an honorable man.  So are they all — all honorable men.”, which was spoken by Marc Antony of Caesar’s murderers. 
  11. Climax is a figure in which the strength of the nought increases to the close of the sentence; as, “The stream of literature has swollen into a torrent — augmented into a river — expanded into a sea.“
  12. Alliteration is a repetition of the same initial letter ; as, “Amid the lingering light”.

II. Sentences

A. Grammatical Sentences

  1. by Form, sentences are either Simple, Complex, or Compound. 
    1. a Simple Sentence is one which contains a single proposition. 
    2. a Complex Sentence is one which contains a principal proposition modified by one or more subordinate propositions. 
    3. a Compound Sentence is one which contains two or more principal propositions.
  2. by Mood, sentences are either Declarative, Interrogative, Imperative, or Exclamatory.
    1. a Declarative Sentence is one used to affirm or deny. 
    2. an Interrogative Sentence is one used to ask a question. 
    3. an Imperative Sentence is one used to express a command or an entreaty. 
    4. an Exclamatory Sentence is one used in exclamation. 

B. Rhetorical Sentences

  1. Loose Sentence is one which may be separated into parts without destroying the sense; as, “Leaves have their time to fall, and flowers to wither, at the north wind’s breath.”
  2. Periodic Sentence is one in which the complete sense is not expressed until the close; as, “Over and over again, no matter which way I turn, I always find in the book of life, some lesson that I must learn.”

The content of this outline was adapted from a helpful old book titled, “Studies in English and American Literature“, published in 1908.

If you have any questions about these figures of speech, please ask.

God bless your studies,

William C. Michael, Headmaster
Classical Liberal Arts Academy

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