Exercise I: “From Teaching with the Norton Anthology: “As a technical literary term, “style” describes the compositional habits that shape texts and give them a unity of feel or texture. Style can be broken down into many components: diction, level, syntax, grammar, ornament, and more. Rhetorical theory advises that the style suit the matter. The following exercise approaches Beowulf through a focus on grammatical style. In poetry, the weight of meaning can be distributed variously over the elements of grammar. Does the poet stress things and qualities, or actions? Nouns and adjectives, or verbs and adverbs? Use a grammar handbook to review the parts of speech.
Rewrite lines 1557-68 of Heaney’s translation of Beowulf, conveying the same information but shifting the information around so it weighs differently on the grammar. Do this once for nouns and adjectives, and a second time for verbs and adverbs.
Example, lines 12-14, rewritten with weight on verbs and adverbs: God comforted them and afterward Shield fathered one who boyishly played and prowled nearby.
Rewritten with the weight of meaning placed mostly on nouns and adjectives: The late birth of a boy-child for Shield–a cub in the yard, a comfort from a compassionate God for that nation.
Which are the important, textured, eye-catching words? Move them around. Now, which of your “shiftings” sounds most like the poem? On what parts of speech does the Beowulf poet place most of the poem’s weight of meaning? Write a brief paragraph [post to the discussion forum your thoughts] on the relation between the poem’s “content” and its grammatical style: would you say there’s a good fit between the style and the content?”
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