The fourth element: Expression – Poetic devices (exercise 2)

Key concepts and definitions

(Creative Arts handbook, p. 88-91)

Expression or diction is Aristotle’s fourth element.

Poetic devices (modes of expression) are tools used by writers to create art from language, not only in poetry but also in prose.


Find examples of poetic devices in poems

Rhyme : words that sound alike, usually at line endings

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

(William Shakespeare, Sonnet XVIII)


Rhythm :  a metered structure of syllables, consonants, breathing, or pauses

I grant I never saw a goddess go,

– My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, I think my love as rare

As any she belied in false compare.

(William Shakespeare, Sonnet CXXX)


Repetition : intentional repetition for reinforcement and effect

To the swinging and the ringing of the bells, bells, bells-
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells
Bells, bells, bells-

To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!

(Edgar Allan Poe, ‘The Bells’)


Alliteration : two or more words in a line of poetry that begin with the same initial sound

When I see birches bend from left and right… / I like to think some boy’s been swinging them.

(Robert Frost, ‘Birches’)


Assonance : repeating vowel sounds without repeating consonants. In poetry, often used as an alternative to rhyme

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o‘er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze…

(William Wordsworth, ‘Daffodils’)


Consonance: repeating consonants without repeating vowels. Consonance gives melody to verse

As in guys she gently sways at ease.

(Robert Frost, ‘The Silken Tent’)


Onomatopoeia : a word that imitates the sound made by the thing being described

It’s a jazz affair, drum crashes and cornet razzes. / The trombone pony neighs and the tuba jackass snorts. / The banjo tickles and titters too awful.

(Carl Sandburg, ‘Honky Tonk in Cleveland, Ohio’)


Personification : ascribing human qualities to an object
But tree, I have seen you taken and tossed,
And if you have seen me when I slept,
You have seen me when I was taken and swept
And all but lost.
That day she put our heads together,
Fate had her imagination about her,
Your head so much concerned with outer,
Mine with inner, weather.

(Robert Frost, ‘Tree at my Window’)


Simile : a figure of speech in which an image is evoked by likening one thing to another
I think my love as rare / As any she belied with false compare.

(William Shakespeare, Sonnet CXXX)


Metaphor : to describe something by giving it the identity of something else

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune–without the words,
And never stops at all

(Emily Dickinson, ‘Hope’)


Imagery : use of devices such as simile and metaphor to create images in the reader’s mind

…Not a God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.

(Sylvia Plath, ‘Daddy’)


Look for some of the devices above in a novel

Alice Munro, ‘To Rich Japan’ short story in Dear Life (2012)

Once Peter had brought her suitcase on board the train he seemed eager to get himself out of the way. But not to leave. (rhythm)

Out on the platform looking up at their window, he stood waving. Smiling, waving. (consonance)

The smile for Katy was wide open, sunny, without a doubt in the world (assonance)

She carried not noticing to an extreme. Not noticing, not intruding, not suggesting (repetition, alliteration)

His opinions were something like his complexion. (simile)

That was where the word poetess came in handy, like a web of spun sugar. (simile)

And here she had been desperate for anybody to throw her any old bone of conversation at all. (metaphor)

The dream was in fact a lot like the Vancouver weather – a dismal sort of longing, a rainy dreamy sadness, a weight that shifted round the heart. (metaphor)

But when the woman answered her mouth went dry and felt as big as a tundra and she had to hang up. (simile)

I have read only about 10 pages into the short story, but it was not difficult to find many examples of modes of expression. I think all of them contribute to create a subtle mood of detached intimacy around the main character, Greta, which seems to reflect her attitude toward other people and life: she looks at everybody, to what happens around her and also to herself from a certain affectionate distance.


Come up with examples for each device

As I walked down the street, I looked for a place to eat.
I was a little tense, since that idea made no sense. (rhyme)

You said what are you doing here, you were supposed to be out of town, alas I said, I could not find a plane today. (rhythm)

Yes how true, yes, yes how true (repetition)

Women wishing whisky (alliteration)

I’m dying to ride a bike  (assonance)

The black cat is behind my back (consonance)

Twit twit people do twit all the time (onomatopoeia)

The wind howled all night long (personification)

Mary is stupid as a dumb bell (simile)

That girl is a deer in a forest (metaphor)

Sarah is a deer in a forest, she flees at the light, hides in the dark, and the leaves whisper at her passage (imagery)






Rap or romantic?

Read these lines and decide: Rap or Romantic?

• Her untimely exit from her, heavenly body:

romantic (wrong!)

• Five miles meandering with a mazy motion:

rap (wrong!!)

• Victims of worldly ways, memories stays engraved:

romantic (wrong!!!)

• A dead bird flying through a broken sky:

rap (right – at last I got it right)

• Drive my dead thoughts over the universe:

rap (wrong – wrong again!!)

With 4 answers wrong out of 5 I have certainly scored a negative personal record!! But apart from my disappointment I wonder if my failure depends entirely on me and on my poor understanding of poetry genres or if there may be other reasons, for instance the difficulty to draw a line between what is rap and non rap poetry.

Now a bit of research … Key concepts and definitions

Video of a rap poem performed (Ivy, 2007)

Slam and performance poetry, hip hop, rap and grime poetry

A slam is a poetry competition during which poets perform their work individually or in teams and their performance is judged by the audience. It is a form of spoken poetry, as part of an oral tradition, started by construction worker and poet Marc Smith in 1986 in a Chicago jazz club and since then become widespread across the United States (, 2004).

Rapping is a form of spoken or chanted rhyming lyrics and is distinct from spoken-word poetry in being performed in time to a beat. It spreads across speech, prose, poetry and singing. Today rap and rapping are almost indistinguishable from hip hop. It can be traced back to its African roots as the work songs and spirituals of the African-American community. Many of the rhythmic techniques used in rapping come from percussive techniques and many rappers compare themselves to percussionists. A rapper must also develop vocal presence, enunciation, and breath control. Rappers use the literary techniques of double entendres, alliteration, and other forms of wordplay that are also found in classical poetry. Similes and metaphors are used extensively in rap lyrics (Wikipedia, 2016).

‘Both rap and poetry use literary devices like assonance and alliteration. Both use words. Both are spoken. But rap is a musical-verbal art and poetry is a verbal-musical-typographical one.’ (Mattix, 2014)

‘Grime is not garage
Grime is not jungle
Grime is not hip-hop and Grime is not ragga.
Grime is a mix between all of these with strong, hard hitting lyrics. It’s the inner city music scene of London.
And is also a lot to do with representing the place you live or have grown up in.’ (Thake, 2006).

So, all considered, having wandered through the Internet in search of definitions and basic information on the different forms of spoken word poetry, I now understand that perhaps I had some reason at being at a loss when asked to distinguish between rap and non rap!

From what I understand pre-modernist, modernist and post-modernist poetry have more in common than not: they have common roots and a shared use of beat and rhythm, poetic devices, self expression, importance of theme. And these same elements are to be found also in prose when it is read or is spoken aloud. In times and places themes and subject matters change, styles and genres are born, evolve and die, devices are used differently but the basic elements do seem to remain the same like the notes in music.


Ivy, J. (2007) Never Let Me Down In At: (Accessed 21.11.16)

Posted May 29, 2004 In [online] At: (Accessed 21.11.16)

Wikipedia (2016) ‘Rapping’ article [online] At: (Accessed 21.11.16)

Mattix, M. (2014) Is Rap Poetry? In [online] At: (Accessed 21.11.16)

Wikipedia (2016) ‘Hip Hop’ article [online] At: (Accessed 21.11.16)

Thake, O. (2006) ‘Grime’ definition [online] In At: (Accessed 21.11.16)

The third element: Theme – Exercise 1: Poetry and the theme of ‘place’

Key concepts and definitions

(from Creative Arts, page 81-83)

Poetry: from Greek poiesis (‘the making’)

Differences between poetry and prose: are they so different? in what? An article published online (Earl, 2012) offers some very stimulating hints:

‘prose is all about accumulation … while poetry is about the isolation of feelings’

‘Poetry creates its own truth’

‘In both classical and modern languages it is poetry that evolves first and is only much later followed by prose, as though in a language’s childhood, as in our own, poetry were the more efficient communicator of ideas.’

‘Technology also played a roll. With the spread of the printing press after 1440, texts no longer had to be memorized. Poetry’s inbuilt mnemonics (rhyme, meter, refrain, line breaks) were no longer essential for processing and holding on to knowledge.’

‘Poetry’s last major flourishing during the first half of the 19th century was a kind of Silver Age to what came before; it gave us a way to model our increasingly important private lives, as opposed to our public ones. This is its gift.’

Theme: Aristotle’s third element in Poetics. Themes are ideas explored in creative writing.

Differences between theme and subject or subject matter:

Theme : Poetic theme is the main point the author is trying to make with the poem. Another way to think of theme is as the “moral” of the poem.
Subject: The subject of a poem is the topic, or what the poem is literally about. (Bradesca, 2001)


Exercise 1 – The theme of ‘place’ in 3 poems

a. The Herefordshire Landscape by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

(answer 2) I think that this poem is the one which mostly evokes a sense of place. It seems that the poet looks at a landscape from above, like a bird in its flight. It does not describe a place in its specificity, but through the use of words the reader can vividly picture it and perceive its special smells.


b. Slough by John Betjeman

(answer 3) This poem makes a social comment about progress and place. I checked on Slough, a town near London, and its story in time, the air raids in 1940 and the much discussed housing developments which followed after the warI had to look up a word I had never heard, smithereens: fragments, little bits (Merrian-Webster. 2016).


c. The Lost Land by Eaven Boland

(answer 1) The third beautiful poem strongly resonates with identity and exile, and it seems to speak of a lost place, Dublin Bay, and at the same time of other intimate personal losses (‘Ireland. Absence. Daughter’).



Earl, M. (2012) The Difference Between Poetry and Prose. In: [online] At: (Accessed 18.11.16)

Bradesca, K. (2001) The Difference Between a Poem’s Theme & Subject. In [online] At: (Accessed 18.11.16)

Merrian-Webster. (2016) ‘Smithereens’ definition [online] At: (Accessed 18.11.16)

The second element: Character and character archetypes – Exercise 2

Key concepts and definitions

Archetype: the original pattern or model of which all things of the same type are representations or copiesFrom the Greek archetypos, formed from the verb “archein” (“to begin” or “to rule”) and the noun “typos” (“type”).  The ancient Greek philosopher Plato, believed that all things have ideal forms of which real things are merely shadows or copies. And in the psychology of C. G. Jung, “archetype” refers to an inherited idea or mode of thought that is present in the unconscious of the individual. In everyday prose, however, “archetype” is most commonly used to mean “a perfect example of something.”

(Merrian-Webster, 2016)

In literary criticism, a primordial image, character, or pattern of circumstances that recurs throughout literature and thought consistently enough to be considered a universal concept or situation. Term adopted from psychologist Carl Gustav Jung, further developed in a literary context by critic Northrop Frye (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2016)

Stereotype and cliché: both words come from French and were originally printers’ terms, and both have come to take on somewhat negative meanings in modern use. Their original meanings are essentially synonymous, referring to printing blocks from which numerous prints could be made. Today cliché refers to something hackneyed, such as an overly familiar or commonplace phrase, theme, or expression. Stereotype refers to an often unfair and untrue belief that many people have about all people or things with a particular characteristic.

(Merrian-Webster, 2016)

Examples of character archetypes

Taking as an example the book I’ve recently mapped to the Hero’s Journey, Matilda by Roald Dahl, Matilda, the Protagonist, has also combined features of several Jungian character archetypes: the Hero, the Rebel, the Magician and the Explorer. I think of Miss Trunchball, which in the book is the Antagonist, as an Ugly Witch and a Terrible Mother.

In the same novel I can see some other character archetypes. Miss Honey, the Mentor, can be considered according to C.G. Jung the Orphan, the Caregiver as well as the Sage, being a teacher.

Some character archetypes with examples

The petty bourgeois hero: Giovanni Vivaldi, the main character played by Alberto Sordi in An Average Little Man (1977), film directed by Mario Monicelli

The strong warrior: Beowulf, Achilles

The tortured hero: Odysseus, the mathematician and Nobel prize Nash played by Russel Crowe in A Beautiful Mind (2001), film directed by Ron Howard

The simple young man: Renzo Tramaglino, the male hero in The Betrothed (Italian: I promessi sposi), an Italian historical novel by Alessandro Manzoni (1827)

The innocent young girl: Lucia Mondella, the female hero in The Betrothed (Italian: I promessi sposi), an Italian historical novel by Alessandro Manzoni (1827)

The unaware princess: Cinderella and Snow White

The antihero: Donald Duck, Forrest Gump

The self-destructive artist: Amedeo Modigliani, Kurt Cobain

The tragic lovers: Orpheus and Eurydice,  Romeo and Juliet

The rebel: James Dean, Che Guevara

The evil stepmother: Miss Trunchball in Matilda by Roald Dahl, the Evil Queen in Snow White fairytale

The mermaid: Anita Ekberg in La dolce vita (1960), film directed by Federico Fellini

The faithful friend: doctor Watson for Sherlock Holmes

The interior enemy: Mr Hyde in the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) by Robert Louis Stevenson

The little naughty kid: Pinocchio, the protagonist of the children’s novel The Adventures of Pinocchio (1883) by Italian writer Carlo Collodi

The evil (negative) hero: Richard III

The wise old man: Merlin the wizard

It seems that there is virtually no end to archetype generation. Perhaps, like plot, through which we organize events in a meaningful connected way, this is our spontaneous (human) way to organize things, concepts, people in categories, and so, again, to put order to chaos. This is a concept that I would like to explore in more depth.


Merrian-Webster. (2016) ‘Archetype’ definition [online] At: (Accessed 17.11.16)

Merrian-Webster. (2016) ‘Sterotype’ definition [online] At: (Accessed 17.11.16)

Encyclopaedia Britannica (2016) ‘Archetype’ article [online] At: (Accessed 17.11.16) (Accessed 17.11.16) (Accessed 17.11.16) (Accessed 17.11.16)

Research point: Pulp Fiction, postmodernism

Pulp Fiction

I absolutely love Pulp Fiction and I did some research on the Internet to delve into later, in connection with Part Three of this course.

Some useful resources:

On Wikipedia there is a particularly well written article on Tarantino’s film at: (Accessed 16.11.16)

I also found an interesting article on a website on script writing,, at: (Accessed 16.11.16)

Among the reviews of this film, there is some material in The Guardian, and an especially good one in The York Times at: (Accessed 16.11.16)



I bought the Kindle edition of the book suggested, Postmodernism: A Very Short Introduction (2002) by C. Butler and have so far read the first three chapters.

Main topics dealt:


Chapter 1 – The rise of postmodernism

Discussion of Carl Andre‘s work Equivalent VIII (1966) in connection with Duchamp‘s readymades and modernist works.

Introduction to deconstructive and post-structuralist theory, relationship between postmodernism and philosophical, political, and sociological thought of the time.


Chapter 2 – New ways of seeing the world

Resistance to master narratives (or metanarratives) and postmodernist fundamentally sceptical attitude: La condition postmoderne by J.-F. Lyotard (1979).

Jacques Derrida: Deconstruction of metanarratives and relativistic attitude

Signs as systems: all words are meaningful only inside their relationships to systems (—> De Saussure)

Playing with the text: ‘new novelists’ in France and American experimental writers (W. Abish, D. Barthelme, R. Coover, R. Federman)

R. Barthes and M. Foucault: the death of the author

Language in its whole seen as a metaphor that can be deconstructed.

Culture and history considered as a number of perpetually competing stories.

Very self-conscious reflexivity of artists with frequent recourse to metalanguages. The work is seen as text even if it is a film, or a painting or a fashion show and every text, from philosophy to the newspapers, involves an obsessional repetition or intertextuality.

Postmodernist novel Il nome della rosa (The Name of the Rose) by Umberto Eco (1980).

Rewriting history: history as just another narrative, whose structures are fundamentally fictional and enslaved to its own myths, metaphors, and stereotypes.


Chapter 3 – Politics and identity

Relationship between discourse and power, ‘discourse’ meaning ‘a historically evolved set of interlocking and mutually supporting statements’ (page 44).

The power of words (Michel Foucault) and contemporary lessening of individual responsibility: the individual is not considered not so much as a ‘self’ but as a ‘subject’ because moved ‘by the ideologically motivated discourses of power which predominate in the society’ (page 49).

‘The postmodernist notion of human identity as essentially constructed like a fiction is also to be found in the visual arts, as is to be seen in Cindy Sherman‘s series of photographs, Untitled Film Stills (1977-80)’ (page 54).

Relationship between postmodernism and feminism in that ‘women are excluded … from the dominant male discourse … are subjected to a Derridean ‘false hierarchy’ by being assigned weak values, opposite to the strong ones invested in masculinity’ (page 56).

‘The postmodernist self, then, is very differently conceived from the self at the centre of liberal humanist thought, which is supposed to be capable of being autonomous, rational, and centred, and somehow free of any particular cultural, ethnic, or gendered characteristics’ (page 58).

‘Postmodernists therefore seem to call for an irreducible pluralism, cut off from any unifying frameworks of belief that might lead to common political action’ (page 60).



‘Matilda’ by Roald Dahl mapped to The Hero’s Journey – Exercise 1

I choose a short novel by Roald Dahl, Matilda, to map onto the Hero’s Journey first because I love this author and my kids simply adored this particular story,  it does not look too complex for a first attempt and last but not least because the heroin of the story is a voracious reader and this makes her a perfect choice for a section about creative reading I think!

So here is my attempt.

Act I (Beginning: the hero’s decision to act)

1. Ordinary World

Matilda, a very clever and precocious child of only five years, lives with her horrible stupid parents who do not understand, value, or even notice her and her incredible talents. She is totally neglected and ignored by them.

2. Call to Adventure

After teaching herself to read at three, one day she goes to the local library where she meets Mrs. Phelps, a sympathetic and kind librarian, who introduces her first to the children books and then to adult literature.

3. Refusal of the Call

Matilda does not refuse the call, instead she immediately and enthusiastically answers to it. For her the discovery of books is a total turnaround, she gains more and more knowledge and control of her life at home, starting to play terrible tricks on her stupid parents.

4. Meeting with the Mentor

On her first day at school she meets her teacher, Miss Honey, a very special person who understands Matilda’s nature and exceptional talents and who courageously sets out to help her in any way she can. At the same time Matilda and her school mates are told that they must beware of Miss Trunchball, the scary and evil headmistress.

5. Crossing of the First Threshold

Matilda shows to a bewildered Miss Honey how good she is at math (she knows all the multiplication tables and beyond), how she has already read an incredible number of difficult books and even makes up a limerick  about Miss Honey. The teacher has no more doubts, this little girl is a true genius and she must convince the headmistress to move her up from the first class.

Act II (Middle: the action)

6. Tests, Allies, Enemies

The terrible headmistress does not even listen to what the teacher has to say and absolutely refuses. Miss Honey does not give up and she presents Matilda with advanced textbooks that she can study during regular school time. Miss Honey also goes and visits Matilda’s parents to speak about their exceptional daughter and find with them a way to help her. But to her dismay they are both very rude and incredibly stupid and, like the headmistress, don’t pay her the slightest attention.

Matilda meets other children and makes new friends: her best friend Lavender, the older and brave children Hortensia and Bruce Bogtrotter who both dare to defy Miss Trunchball.

Her worst enemies are her parents, Mr and Mrs Wormwood, and above all her antagonist Miss Trunchball.

7. Approach to the Inmost Cave

Through the stories told by Hortensia about the headmistress and the terrible experiences lived by other children and especially by Bruce, Matilda prepares herself to tackle her enemy.

8. Ordeal

And finally comes the day of the ordeal and Matilda defeats Miss Trunchball through her newly acquired telekinetic powers.

9. Reward

Miss Honey invites Matilda to have tea in her little fable-like cottage and tells her the painful story of her life. Now it’s Matilda’s turn to help.

Act III (End: the consequences of action)

10. The Road Back

Matilda leaves Miss Honey and goes back to her Ordinary World, but only to get prepared to a final confrontation with the headmistress and save Miss Honey from her sad situation.

11. Resurrection

The final trial is extremely difficult, the battle is harsh and Matilda uses her telekinetic powers for the last time and to the best of her capacity. Miss Trunchball is defeated and leaves the village and her house to Miss Honey who was the legitimate heir to it.

12. Return with the Elixir

Matilda’s parents make a hasty departure to Spain because the police are after his father and with all her enemies out of the way Matilda can finally live with Miss Honey in her new house.

The first element: Plot

Key concepts and definitions

(from Creative Arts, page 72-72)

Story/narrative/plot: story is the ‘what’ (the subject), narrative is the ‘how’ (the structure), plot is the ‘why’ (the causality)

Aristotle defines plot as “the arrangement of the incidents” into three parts: a beginning, a middle and an end linked by necessity or causality —-> three-act drama


Examples of templates of dramatic structure in 3 parts (acts)


  1. The Pyramid template by Gustav Freytag. Freitag, a German novelist and playwright (1816-1895), analyzed the structure of ancient Greek and Shakespearean drama.

Figure 1 At: (Accessed 11.11.16)


2. The Monomyth, a concept developed by Joseph Campbell, (1904 – 1987) an American mythologist, writer and lecturer, in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces first published in 1949. I have read this book a long time ago and found it extremely fascinating for the study of comparative mythology.

Figure 2 At: (Accessed 11.11.16)


3. The Writer’s Journey template by Christopher Vogler, a Hollywood development executive who was inspired by Joseph Campbell’s writings to write a very successful book aimed at screenwriters.



Campbell, J. (1968) The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press

Vogler, C. (1999) The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers (3rd edition). Studio City, CA: Michael Wiese’s_journey