The Literary Technique You Didn't Know You Knew

| | Comments (1)

Did anyone else always try to make imagery more complicated than this:

"Imagery refers to words that trigger your imaginiation to recall and recombine symbols--memoreis or mental pictures of sights, sounds, tastes, smells, sensations of touch, and motions" (Roberts 129)

Roberts than goes on to give an example of the word lake.  This may bring up different images for different people (such is the risk of imagery, I suppose), but it still triggers the imagination.  Furthermore, Roberts gets a little less romantic with words like apple, hot dog, malted milk, and pizza.  All images?  Sure.  Then this seems kind of easy, doesn't it?

On the next page Roberts warns us that, "Images do more than elicit impressions."  So, in other words, the feared phrase, "It's not as easy as it looks" comes to mind.  (Incidentally, after demonstrating a forward flip, my judo instructor warned us that the move "was not as easy as it looked."  Lest you all be struck with the same kind of fear as I was at that moment, I would like to assure you that imagery is a useful and manageable tool, and you will most likely not land on your head and strain your shoulder while practicing it.) 

Though Roberts goes on to list different kinds of imagery, types that appeal to different senses, I think it's worthwhile to point out that author intent does not always match reader comprehension, especially with something as subjective as imagery.  Jess said in class that the reference to cinamon in "Cargoes" was not a gustatory image for her, rather it was an olfactory image.  In the long run, that's probably not going to make or break a paper, but one should be aware that one's reader will not always follow exaclty what was imagined.  This is one reason that interpretation varies so much.  Imagery is such an important tool, yet it is received in vastly different ways.  With the role this technique plays in writing, it's no wonder none of us knew what The Quick and the Dead was about.




Dave said:

The variation between reader comprehension and author intent with imagery is one reason that research is so important for historical writing. In Jessica's blog on "Cargoes 1902" she mentions that the Boer War ended in 1902, which gives the entire poem the additional idea of imperialism, as it discussed the Spanish empire in the Carribean, as well as the biblical empire of Solomon (which the biblical quotes in the footnotes pointed out.) It would have been obvious to the writer and any readers of the time that the Boer war was just then ending, while it's not the first thing we think when we hear "1902." Historical details like this can often help us better understand the intent behind certain images in older works.

Since I didn't even realize that 1902 was part of the title, I didn't even consider the possible link the Boer war, and thought the poem was just about the romantic and beautiful past and the ugly and industrial present, with a touch of commercialism in between.

Leave a comment

Type the characters you see in the picture above.