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This is not just a matter of identifying the theme but also of looking at how it is presented. In a story or novel, the theme of the passage may be linked to characterisation. You should look for any key and repeated words/motifs, and for any tropes. Does one particular part of speech play a particularly significant role? In terms of syntax, pay attention to sentence type and structure. If the translation is a good one, however, it may be possible to draw attention to the tone and register of the language, as well as the rhythm of the passage as a whole. As with a prose passage, when looking at style in terms of lexis and syntax you should consider what kinds of word are being used and their register (e.g. Does one particular part of speech play a particularly significant role? In terms of syntax, pay attention to sentence type and structure. We encourage you to develop familiarity with these aspects of poetic form and to enjoy the ‘music’ of poetry, but take care in this area.In this case you should consider not only what is revealed about a character but also how this is done, and maybe relate this to other aspects of the passage too. Whose words are these – the characters or narrator’s or author’s? What is the significance of the key words or motifs? You should look for any imagery, for key and recurrent motifs, for key and repeated words, and for any tropes. How are they arranged or developed through the poem? Effective interpretation usually needs to rest on thorough technical knowledge (‘slow’ and ‘fast’, for example, are not phonemic features in Russian).
In situating the passage, and on the basis of your preparation and plan, you should also formulate in a brief but open way what you think it is about, what its theme or role is, as a key or framework to your commentary.
For example, it may be a turning point in the narrative or key exposition of a character. Situate a poem in the chronology of the poet’s work if you can.
What is the compositional movement through the passage or poem? When you refer to the passage or poem, this should be done clearly and succinctly by reference, for example, to first, second etc. Are there any other tropes – exaggeration, paradox etc.? This may relate to the meaning of the passage or the writer’s general style. This may relate to the meaning of the poem or the poet’s general style.
As you write your commentary you should be looking to illuminate the theme or themes (or mood or emotion) that the passage or poem illustrates and explores. paragraphs or sentences (for prose), to first, second etc. You do not therefore need to quote large sections from the text. When looking at style in terms of lexis and syntax, you should consider what kinds of word are being used and their register. How does the choice of words relate to characterisation? If you are studying the texts in translation, it may be difficult to comment on aspects of style. Are there any other tropes – exaggeration, paradox etc. When dealing with poetry, you should also look at other formal aspects, such as rhyme or sound play, stanza organisation, rhythm and metre, enjambment and internal rhyme (see the separate handout for information on this).
Eureka (1848) is a lengthy non-fiction work by American author Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849) which he subtitled "A Prose Poem", though it has also been subtitled as "An Essay on the Material and Spiritual Universe".
Adapted from a lecture he had presented, Eureka describes Poe's intuitive conception of the nature of the universe with no antecedent scientific work done to reach his conclusions.
A brief conclusion to round off your commentary enables you to summarise the way that you have illuminated what the poem or passage is about and how it works.
For students reading texts in the original, points about content can be made without always giving the words in the original language, e.g.
In this it can be helpful to say something about the mode of the poem and identify its genre or form if you can. This means that an appropriate structure for writing a commentary may be to follow this development.
For example, is it rhetorical, contemplative or close to a song? To do so in an illuminating way will very likely involve paying attention to the compositional structure of the passage or poem: does it divide into sections and, if so, how?