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Lecture 3: Literary Terms for the sonnet

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Neta Gordon

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Monday, September 19th 2011
ENGL 1F95 - Lecture 3
Literary Terms for sonnet lecture
-Convention (the “codes”/”rules” of genre)
-Octave (8 lines of poetry)
-Sestet (6 lines of poetry)
-Quatrain (4 lines of poetry)
-Volta ( a change in thought, in feeling etc.)
-Rhyming couplet (two lines of poetry that rhyme)
-Iambic pentameter (5 feet with each foot following a pattern of unstress/stress)
-Scansion (analysis of metric patterns in poetry see pages 1000-1004 for more on
-Genre (a species of literature)
-with every genre of literature, there are particular features that stand out.
History of the English Sonnet
-Mid-sixteenth century; the English renaissance
-in the 1370’s, a collection of poems by Italian poet Francesco Petrarch, called and
Rima Sparse (or “scattered poems”) begins circulating on the continent.
-1557, Tottel’s Miscellany is printed, which includes translations of Petrarch’s sonnets by
English poets Sir Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey.
-Wyatt and Howard, together with other English poets including Shakespeare, perfect
the English sonnet, ehich consists of 3 quatrains and rhyming couplet.
Conventions of the Petrachan sonnet
-14 lines, usually of iambic pentameter (5 feet of 2 syllables, unstressed/stressed)
-Rhyme scheme is ABBA ABBA, plus one of the following: CDECDE,CDCCDC,
-Rhyme scheme reinforces octave/sestet structure (8 lines/6 lines), and highlights the
Volta (line 9). The volta heralds a change: in feelings, in thought, in an answer to a
-Subject matter: passion and pain of an adoring male lover, and the beauty and cruelty
of an indifferent female love object.
-2 part structure
-octave can ask a questions
-sestet answers the question or change in feeling from octave
Changes in form in Shakespearean or English Sonnet
-Structure includes 3 quatrains (4 lines each) and couplet (2 lines);
-Rhyme scheme is usually ABBA CDDC EFFE GG;
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