Subject matter: identifying what creates a tone (e.g. ironical) of a text; selecting language means to convey an ironical tone

Materials: The Cop and the Anthem by O'Henry (an extract). Time: 90 min

Task 1

Comment on the following paragraphs. What tone are they written  in? What makes you think so? Give examples of language items that serve to convey the tone in your opinion. Which stylistic devices can you identify? What is their function in this context?

Four extracts were given to the students as homework (see in the Materials section).

Procedures: in class we focused on one of the extracts (the students choice) – to save the time for Task 2.

Extract 1.

‘The hibernatorial ambitions of Soapy were not of the highest. In them there were no considerations of Mediterranean cruises, of soporific Southern skies drifting in the Vesuvian Bay. Three months on the Island was what his soul craved. Three months of assured board and bed and congenial company, safe from Boreas and bluecoats, seemed to Soapy the essence of things desirable.’

This was the first time we discussed the tone and how it is expressed.

S1 –slow motional T. Why? – such words as ’soporific, hibernatorial, drifting’

S2 – also sad because such a word as ‘craved’ implies for me sth one desires and cannot reach

S 3 – ironical:  ‘congenial company’ about the people in prison;

S4 -  light ironical – good things about the person – elevated words: hibernatorial, ambition about a prison

T. And how do you understand ‘ironical’?

 S. Sth we smile at; it is funny; it has some mismatch like in the extract – literary words to state simple things – like food;

T. Stylistic devices? Why are they used? – S. To create the mood)

S3. I found eptithets (descriptive adjectives) - soporific, hibernatorial, congenial

S.4 Allusion and metonymy (Boreas)

Ss. Assured board and bed– paraphrase? Bluecoats, Island – metonimies, local slang?

Summary: T. Elicits from students:

Stylistic devices: epithets, paraphrase, allusion, metonimies

Literary words and slang combination;

Contrast between high style of description and simple things described

(30 min)

Task 2

Re-write the following extract in an ironical tone (I used an extract which they have not yet read from the same text)

Two waiters put Soapy with his left ear on the pavement. He rose on his knees, then to his full height, and beat the dust from his clothes. Arrest  remained a dream. The Island seemed very far away. A policeman who stood before a drug store two doors away laughed and walked down the street.


Step 1. Writing: the students worked individually.

Time: 15 minutes.

Step 2. Listen to the drafts and collect the means of making a text ironical. The students each read their versions aloud.

Outputs: everyone produced a version of the extract. Their texts were very funny. They enjoyed writing, used various stylistic devices (similes ‘e.g. ‘the temple of divine mallard duck’ – about a restaurant) epithets etc;

(there are some drafts in the Materials section)

10 min

Step 3. What did you change? What did your peers change?

The students mention:

S1. Added: epithets (decadent clothes),  simile e.g. he rose as a mushroom after the rain; used  ‘whitecoats’ instead of waiters; omitted – left ear; changed the words: used: descend;

S2. I added adjectives/epithets that are uncombinable: stone-heart pavement – to link to the definition of irony, fun, humorous effect (contrast) and to synonyms, too.

S3. Little street, unreachable, a crocodile laugh; adverbs:  cosy

10 min

Step 4. Compare your texts with the author’s version.(I was thinking how not to discourage them. Purpose: to compare with the neutral version and see thus what conveys the tone)

Neatly upon his left ear on the callous pavement two waiters pitched (=put, positioned) Soapy. He arose, joint by joint, as a carpenter's rule opens, and beat the dust from his clothes. Arrest seemed but a rosy dream. The Island seemed very far away. A policeman who stood before a drug store two doors away laughed and walked down the street.” O’Henry

Reflection during the lesson:

T. What did we do today? - S1. How to make a text alive.

T. What did you learn today? – S2. how stylistic devices and language means can create the mood.

S3. I was told text analysis was a boring subject but I find it interesting.

Reflection after the lesson:

It was the first attempt to make students feel that words and structures in a fiction text are (and should be) selected according to specific function and get them to focus on it practically. In this respect my aim was achieved.

In thinking: I attempted to get them describe ‘ironical tone’ through ENV and create a sort of an algorithm but it is still very fuzzy. I did not set it as an aim. I still have a lot to learn how to create an algorithm and get students to follow it.

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