“Ozymandias” and Irony Formalist Criticism Critical "Lens:" Formalism Formalism assumes that all that is needed in order to interpret a poem or a work of literature is contained within the poem itself. Formalist critics… • are mostly unconcerned about historical/cultural context and biographical information about the author. • are very concerned with sound, form, word choice, literary effects, and "close reading." ("Close reading" is a detailed analysis of the literary effects produced by a work without referring to outside influences.) Formalism • Formalism began in the 1920's as a reaction against the current literary criticism that Formalists thought focused only on the life of the author and concerns outside of the literature itself. Three Influential Formalist Critics: • T.S. Elliot • Robert Penn Warren • Cleanth Brooks Questions formalists might ask: • What are the effects produced by this work? (Formalists differentiate between effects and feelings.) For example, they might be drawn to the way Robert Browning cleverly unfolds the story of "My Last Duchess" or the use of irony in "Ozymandias." • How do individual word choices, sound patterns, and other literary devices combine to create this effect? • What are some of the tensions in this work (between ideas, between forces, between people…)? How do the things discussed above (rhyme, sound patterns, imagery, etc) create, then heighten or lessen those tensions? • Is this work internally consistent? How does it maintain that consistency? • If the work contains literary allusions, how do those allusions function within the confines of the poem? Introduction to Irony • Irony occurs when "a discrepancy exists between two levels of meaning and experience." – Dramatic irony: The reader knows something the characters don’t. – Situational Irony: The outcome of a situation drastically upsets readers’ expectations. – Verbal Irony: Saying one thing and meaning another. (Sarcasm is an example of this.) • The section on irony is on p. 499 of your textbook. "Ozymandias" by Percy Shelley p. 501 • A couple of difficult words before we start: – Trunkless: In this case, a body lacking a torso – Visage: Face • How does the author create irony here? What specific words does he use that make the poem particularly ironic? Be sure to tell me how the words you choose answer this question. • Why did Ozymandias (the guy who the statue is of) want people to "despair"? • Why might people still "despair" when they see the statue, but for different reasons?