A Stylistic Analysis Of Some Selected Poems Of Wole Soyinka

Project and Seminar Material for English Language

A Stylistic Analysis Of Some Selected Poems Of Wole Soyinka


Language and style never moves beyond a concentration on the supremacy of words. These words somehow contain meanings style is effectively language manipulated in ways that signal it as different from ‘ordinary’ language. A stylistic analysis of the selection of some Wole Soyinka’s poems is carried out to educate, explicate and expose to everybody that comes across this write up, in guiding them on how to analyse. The data used to illustrate and substantiate our claims are systematically sourced from some selected poems of Wole Soyinka. The lexico-syntactic patterns and choices, the phonological, morphological and graphological devices are the main stylistic elements used to prove our claims. Finally, we find that each of the elements however, has identifiable functions which contribute to the effective meaning of the poems. It can therefore be concluded that these elements trigger and play important roles in passing the intention of the writer across.

Table of Contents

Chapter One:

General Introduction

  • 1.0 Introduction
  • 1.1 Research Problem
  • 1.2 Aims and Objectives
  • 1.3 Scope of the Study
  • 1.4 Justification
  • 1.5 Research Methodology
  • 1.6 Biography of the Poet

Chapter Two:

Literature Review

  • 2.0 Introduction
  • 2.1 Style
  • 2.2 Stylistics
  • 2.3 Approaches to Stylistic Analysis
  • 2.4 Levels of Stylistic Analysis
  • 2.5 Elements in Stylistic Analysis
  • 2.5.1 Lexico-Syntactic Patterns
  • 2.5.2 Lexico-Syntactic Choices
  • 2.5.3 Phonological Devices
  • 2.5.4 Graphological Devices
  • 2.5.5 Morphological Devices

Chapter Three:

Data Analysis

  • 3.0 Introduction
  • 3.1 Textual Analysis
  • 3.2 Discussion of Tables
  • 3.3 Conclusion

Chapter Four:

Summary, Findings And Conclusion

  • 4.1 Summary
  • 4.2 Findings
  • 4.3 Conclusion
  • Bibliography

Chapter One

General Introduction

1.0 Introduction

Stylistics is a word derived from style; it is a discipline which studies different styles. It can refer to the study of proper use of words or language in proper places. Widdowson (1975, p 3) defines stylistics as “the study of literary discourse from a linguistic orientation”. He goes further by saying that what distinguishes stylistics from literary criticism on the one hand, and linguistics on the other, is that it is essentially a means of linking the two and has (as yet at least) no autonomous domain of its own. He also added that stylistics, however involves both literary criticism and linguistics, as its morphological make-up suggest: the ‘style’ component relating it to the former and the ‘istics’ component to the latter. Style has grown to mean so many things to so many people today. Carter (1989, p 14) is of the view that it is generally recognized that the style of a work can depend on linguistic levels-often simultaneously and that one fairly crucial factor is our expectation concerning the literary form or genre employed.

Haynes (1989, p 3) believes that the study of style is the study of distinctions: looking at what was said against what might have been said. Style is almost synonymous with variety. Style refers in a simple way to the manner of expression which differs according to the various contexts.

Style, being a versatile field, is defined depending on one’s field of study. Adejare (1992) makes this clear when he said that style is an ambiguous term. Lawal (1997, p 6) however, describes style as an aspect of language that deals with choices of diction, phrases, sentences and linguistic materials that are consistent and harmonious with the subject matter. He added that it involves the narrative technique of a writer in terms of choice and distribution of words and character. Lawal (1997, p 6) also added that it may be reckoned in terms of the sociolinguistic contexts and it may also be reckoned or analysed on linguistic, semantic and even semiotic terms.

1.1 Research Problem

This research notes that the stylistic analysis of this selection of poems has not been done so this research will address itself to analyzing these poems stylistically and examining the uniqueness of stylistics as it combines both linguistics and literary studies as it pertains to these poems. It is also addressing itself to examining how words are put together in transferring of message to the readers.

1.2 Aims And Objectives

The ultimate aim of this research is to explore ways in which language use has been integrated in the selected poems. It is also aimed at analyzing some of the distinctive features that give the selected poems their identity. This refers to the recurrent features of stylistics employed by the writer.

In the same vein, this work will be concerned with striking and marked use of words in these poems in order to enhance effective transfer of message. The effects and functions of the stylistic elements as regards the poems will be looked at in the analysis.

1.3 Scope of the Study

This work shall be exclusively stylistic, and analysis will be conducted through the use of the following levels of analysis: lexico-syntactic patterns and choices, phonology, graphology and morphology. Analysis will be conducted using the stylistic elements in each of the above mentioned levels of analysis, such that it could provide a guide and be relevant to future researchers in a related field.

1.4 Justification

What fascinated the researcher into doing this work is the uniqueness of stylistics as it combines both linguistics and literary studies. The choice of words of Wole Soyinka marked by great scope and has also made the researcher to embark on this project and to choose some of Wole Soyinka’s works as the data.

This work will be of great benefit to those students in the field of language and literature who also have interest in stylistics. It will also inspire them more on how to analyse texts using the levels of stylistic analysis employed in this work.

1.5 Research Methodology

The data for analysis have been randomly selected from the “Selection of African Poetry”- introduced and annotated by K. E. Senanu and T. Vincent. All the poems of Wole Soyinka in the selection have been selected. The poems are seven in number and they are ‘Abiku’, ‘To my first white hairs’ and ‘Post mortem’ written in 1967. ‘Telephone conversation’ written in the 1960’s, ‘Night’ and ‘I think it rains’ written in 1988 and the seventh poem ‘Procession 1-hanging day’ written in 1969. The poems will be analysed stylistically and the five levels of analysis already mentioned will form the basis of the analysis.

1.6 Biography Of The Poet- Wole Soyinka

Wole Soyinka was born on 13 July, 1934 in Ake in Abeokuta, near Ibadan in Western Nigeria. After preparatory University studies in 1954 at Government College in Ibadan, he continued at the University of Leeds, where, later, in 1973, he took his doctorate. He showed interest and ability in poetry and drama while in the University.

Soyinka has published about 20 works: drama, novels and poetry. He writes in English and his literary language is marked by great scope and richness of words. His writings are sophisticated and show a profound exploration of human themes and concerns through a unique exploration of his cultural milieu. He has won many international prizes for his contribution to literature. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986.

Chapter Four

Summary, Findings and Conclusion

4.1 Summary

This work has to some extent been able to use the elements of stylistics under lexico-syntactic patterns and choices, phonological, morphological and graphological devices to analyse a selection of Wole Soyinka’s poems – data gotten from “A selection of African Poetry . The display of stylistics in the poems, their functions and their effects in the poems, their functions and their effects in the poems have been the major focus of this research work.

The first chapter is the introductory aspect where the general introduction/background to the study, Research problem, Aims and objectives/statement of purpose, scope of the study, The justification, Research Methodology, Data description and the Biography of the poet – Wole Soyinka are briefly given.

Chapter two comprises a review of related literature, a theoretical framework on which the analysis is based; the elements upon which the data are analysed are explained briefly.

A statistical analysis of data is done in Chapter three. Seven (7) poems of Wole Soyinka collected from a Selection are analysed using the above mentioned levels of stylistic analysis.

In conclusion, this work reveals that the choice of words in any piece of writing is very important, it is capable of expressing effectively the thoughts, feelings and passing across the intended message of the writer to the hearer/reader of the work. It also reveals that putting all these into consideration can thus make any piece of writing to be efficient and fulfilled.

4.2 Findings

To make a striking impression on one’s readers and stir up their emotions, nothing else could be done to achieve this purpose than employing the right and appropriate use of language. This work of research into the stylistic use in the seven(7) collected poems of Wole Soyinka reveals that there is more to texts in terms of message and content than what obtains when a piece of writing is merely being written and read by the writer and the reader respectively.
It is found out the writer makes use of unusual or inverted word order in the form of Anastrophe and Parenthesis in a way that interrupts the normal syntactical flow of the sentence to secure emphasis and focus the readers’/ hearers’ attention. There is also the use of word omission, which the instances are Ellipsis and asyndeton; they entail the deliberate omission of a word or words, which are readily implied by the content. Asyndeton is the deliberate omission of conjunctions between a series of related clause. These are used to create brevity, emphasis or ambiguity.

There are also cause of repetition found Epizeuxis and Anaphora. Generally repetition is for emphasis. It helps to produce a permanent effect on the hearer/ reader.

Under the lexico-syntactic choices, we have the simile and metaphor which are both related to the topic of similarity to give clearness and liveliness to words. Also Anthimeria, where one part of speech is substituted for another. Periphrasis also substitutes a descriptive word or a phrase is substituted for a proper name for a quality associated with the name. Instances of hyperbole, litotes, Onomatopoeia, pun, paradox, synecdoche, oxymoron, antonym, synonyms, hypernyms /hyponyms, parts of speech are found in the poems.

Under the phonological devices- rhyming scheme, consonance, assonance are found and they have been used in linking words to reinforce meaning. They also provide tone and musical colour and they aid memorability.
Coinages and nounce formation is found under morphological devices where new words have been created by the poet for a particular occasion and this shows the power of creativity of the poet.

Under graphological devices we find the foregrounded elements used in the poems like Capitalization, lowercase letters, the contracted forms, bold print, spacing. Repetition and punctuation marks are also found and all these have been used to play different roles to achieve cohesion in discourse and they play different roles which are for varying stylistic effects. All of these things found out have worked together in attaining and ensuring effective meaning and communication.

4.3 Conclusion

The choice of words by the writer or the poet plays a very important in meaning making. It helps the reader or the hearer to understand the intention and the message the poet is trying to pass across. Stylistics, by this analysis has shown that there is a distinction between poetic and non- poetic language as a means of defining literature, language manipulated in ways that signal it as different from
‘ordinary’ language.

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