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ENGLISH 1A03 Lecture Notes - Dover Beach, The Courtroom

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Jeffery Donaldson

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Feb 4/2013
English 1A03
What we talk about when we talk about poems
Why do we prefer talking about the “experience” of a poem over the “meaning” of a poem?
- The Grocery Store Argument or “the wrong way to approach the experience of a poem”
o If you catch yourself looking for certain words that will back up your argument and avoiding
certain other words because they don’t seem to support what you’re saying, then you’re taking
the grocery-store approach
o It is like passing down and aisle, choosing this item, that item, and then presenting your own
shopping cart as representative of the entire store and everything that is in it
- The Courtroom Analogy
o In making an argument, you may feel inclined “to play the lawyer,” i.e. to support your argument
(client…) by presenting certain evidences and details and leaving out the details that don’t
support your argument
o The lawyer’s approach does require rhetorical dexterity, wit and confidence, but also
manipulation. For a reader of a poem, it is wrong.
o What does it mean, then, that the poem appears to offer contradictory evidence? What does this
say about what kind of poem we are looking at?
Dover Beach Matthew Arnold
- Victorian poem
- Pattern of images of light
- Sea images
- Nature images
- Mood indicators:
o Human misery (second stanza)
o Melancholy
o Calm
o Sadness
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