The Analysis of a Sonnet
Kathryn Tuckwell [+]
The very simple and non-specific title of this essay is chosen in homage to Hasan’s chapter “The analysis of a poem” from Language, Linguistics and Verbal Art (1985, Ch. 2). To me, there are two ways (at least) of reading Hasan’s title. Firstly, it suggests that what will follow is an instance of literary stylistics - an analysis of a single poem, for the purpose of elucidating the meanings of that poem, and how that poem makes those meanings. Secondly, it suggests an outline of some aspect of a theory of literary stylistics - the system, as it were - an outline of the method for analysis any poem - “here is how to analyse a poem”. Hasan’s chapter fulfils both of these interpretations: it obviously provides the analysis of a single poem (Les Murray’s “Widower in the country”), but it also, because it lays out so clearly the components of the analysis and Hasan’s interpretation of literary meaning based on the “patterning of patterns” (Hasan 1985, 96) displayed by that analysis, serves as a guidebook for others to perform similar careful analyses and interpretations. Despite the parallelism in the title, the current chapter is unlikely to answer these two meanings in quite the same way that Hasan’s chapter does. While it does present an analysis of a particular sonnet - Auden’s “Who’s who” - and does so in enough detail that it could serve, as Hasan’s analysis and interpretation does, as a model for how to analyse a poem using the methods of systemic functional linguistics, it will not specifically function as a methodology for how to analyse a sonnet, in particular.