Rhythm & Pitch.

Hello everyone and welcome back to another Theory Thursday. Last week I broke down the structure of a sonnet so if you have not read that already then you should check it out.

Today I am going to be breaking down rhythm and pitch. I have said before that some of my Theory Thursday topics will be especially helpful to anyone who is trying to become a more confident public speaker, today’s topic definitely falls into that category so be sure to keep reading!

Let’s dive into #theorythursday.

What is rhythm?

Rhythm can be referred to as the flow of speech and music.

Note – I am specifically talking about rhythm in relation to speech, while there are some overlaps between literary theory and music theory, there are some differences and if I am ever talking about music theory then I will clearly state that at the beginning of the piece.

How is rhythm produced?

We produce rhythm in speech by stress. When words have more than one syllable, one is stressed. The stressed and unstressed syllables work together to create certain patterns. That is where we get rhythm.

Rhythm can also be found everywhere. It is all around us, for example one can find rhythm in a heartbeat or in the ticking of a clock or in the sound of someone’s footsteps.

Rhythm is created by the repetition of stressed and unstressed syllables, a repetition of heavy and light sounds.

Rhythm can be found in poetry and in prose, and of course, in music.

What is pitch?

Pitch refers to the range of the speaking voice and usually one places their voice in the middle of the vocal scale – if you are singer, you may think of when warming up it is common to start at the middle C. It is a similar idea.

The voice ranges over three pitches.

There is upper pitch and we tend to use this when we are excited or nervous or afraid.

There is middle pitch which could be referred to as the ‘normal’ speaking voice. Think of how you speak on a regular basis, in regular conversation. This is your everyday voice and it is your middle pitch.

There is lower pitch which conveys sorrow or gloom, think of how you may automatically lower your voice if you have to convey bad news or if you are sad or if you are apologising.

Why are rhythm and pitch important?

When speaking, maintaining rhythm makes the speech sound natural and fluent and easy to listen to.

If you are only using stressed words then the speech can sound artificial and boring and also certain meaning may be lost if you are not emphasising the right things. Becoming a good speaker requires learning an array of skills. In order to be engaging and inspiring, it is important to speak clearly and confidently but to also remember how to emphasize your point and having an understanding of rhythm will only be an asset to you when you are speaking.

Pitch is important because we use pitch to express our emotions. If there is no variation in your pitch then your entire speech will risk sounding monotone and dull. You lose the interest of your listeners and again, certain meaning may be lost if you do not convey the emotions that your speech needs. How can an audience believe something is exciting if you sound bored talking about it? Having an understanding of pitch will enable you to make sure your speech is varied and filled with emotion and nuance and doing this will help you become the engaging speaker you want to be.

So this has been my breakdown of rhythm and pitch. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope it is helpful especially to those of you who voted for more public speaking content in my Instagram polls. If you have any questions then please do leave a comment, I am more than happy to get back to you.

This has been Theory Thursday.

Kate xo.

Structure in Poetry – Sonnets.

Hello everyone and welcome back to another Theory Thursday. Last week I broke down Rate & Pace so you should check that out if you haven’t already. My Rate & Pace breakdown will be the first of a few Theory Thursdays that I feel will be really helpful when it comes to helping readers get better at public speaking.

I ran a poll on my Instagram –@katelovesliterature, you should follow me there if you don’t already. I asked if people would find tips and advice about how to become a more confident speaker helpful and the response I got was very positive so going forward there will be more Theory Thursday breakdowns that are aimed towards anyone who may wish to become a more confident speaker whether it be for presentations, interviews or just day to day conversations. It won’t be every single week as I like to do something different and keep things fresh so there is something for everyone, but going forward I will be including more public speaking tips so if that is something you know you would find helpful then do stay tuned and do keep tabs on my Instagram because then you will see when a piece that you might find helpful is coming up.

Today though is all about poetry. Going forward I am going to be breaking down all aspects of poetry here on Theory Thursday, I’m going to discuss form, style, poetic techniques and much more and today I am starting off with structure and I am starting off with a sonnet.

There are many types of poems and a sonnet is one of them. So let’s dive in.

What is a sonnet?

A sonnet is a lyrical poem that consists of fourteen lines. The sonnet dates all the way back to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The sonnet was originated in Italy and it was perfected by Petrarch and Dante and it became popular in England in the sixteenth century as it was used by well known English poets such as William Wordsworth and William Shakespeare.

A sonnet is written in iambic pentameter. What does this mean?

Iambic pentameter refers to the rhythm that the words establish in a line. The rhythm is measured in small groups of syllables, these are referred to as ‘feet’. Iambic pentameter is extremely popular, in fact it is one of the most commonly used meters in English poetry.

Shakespeare famously used iambic pentameter in his plays and in his sonnets, and so now that we are more aware of what iambic pentameter is, we can now look at a sonnet and how it is constructed.

A sonnet is a very specific and disciplined style of poem because in a sonnet every word is important.

There are two kinds of sonnet – The Petrarchan Sonnet (also can be referred to as the Italian Sonnet) and the English Sonnet.

In the Petrarchan Sonnet, there is a clear break between the first eight lines and the following six lines. The first eight lines introduce the poem’s theme and the following six develop that theme or introduce something new. The rhyming scheme of a Petrarchan Sonnet is usually ABBA ABBA CDE CDE OR CD CD CD.

The first eight lines are called an octave and the following six are called a sestet.

In the English Sonnet, the theme is introduced in the first four lines and developed in the next eight. Sometimes each stanza can deal with a different aspect of the overall theme and it is usually summed up at the end. The rhyming scheme of an English Sonnet is usually ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. In each stanza, the mood may be different and so the speaker should reflect this if they are reading a poem aloud – that however will be a different Theory Thursday as how to go about reading a poem aloud is an entire blog post in itself.

Why is this important?

The sonnet as a poetic form has remained popular for five centuries so I feel that understanding how a sonnet is constructed allows readers of poetry to have a greater understanding of the poem itself. As I said before when I spoke about Form & Themes, having an understanding of form, of how a piece is written allows us to have a greater appreciation for that piece. Having an understanding of what a sonnet is will improve close reading skills and analytical skills. It will allow you to have a greater understanding and appreciation of poetry and when this happens, a poem becomes much more meaningful.

I am aware that not everyone is an English student, but if you are studying English in school or in college then analysing a poem is something you will have to do at some point and knowing about form will be part of that analysis. When one is studying Shakespeare in school or college, analysing form will come up again and since Shakespeare famously uses sonnets in his plays, having an understanding of how a sonnet is structured will help you especially in the Leaving Cert or in your college essay.

I feel that sonnets are really useful poetic devices because they allow a poet to explore the tensions that may exist in the theme they are exploring. Sonnets tend to feature two contrasting emotions or beliefs, love and hate, winning and losing, life and death etc. and the structure of a sonnet – the introducing of a theme and then either expanding on it or arguing against it – really lends itself to the themes and emotions that a poet is expressing in a sonnet and of course I spoke about how form & theme can compliment each other already in my Theory Thursday entitled Form & Themes, which you should check out if you haven’t already but another example of form and theme working together can be found when one is analysing sonnets.

Something to note is that aspects from previous Theory Thursdays may pop up again and again in future breakdowns and this is because all aspects of literary theory are entwined with each other and once you begin to understand each aspect, it will become easier to recognise them in all works and of course that is the goal. I want English Literature to be accessible to anyone who wishes to access it and my Theory Thursday breakdowns are aimed at anyone who wishes to read about English Literature in more detail but they are also aimed at anyone who is struggling with their English classes because they may find my breakdowns really helpful and once you begin to understand the many aspects of literary theory, they become easier to recognise and then learning becomes much more enjoyable and much more layered because with each aspect, we are opening the door to English Literature more and more, and the more we understand these aspects, the more we can appreciate literature and the more meaningful literature becomes and so that is why I consider it very important to learn about literary theory and why I chose to discuss the sonnet today.

This has been my Theory Thursday. I hope you enjoyed it and found it insightful. Do you enjoy poetry? Do you have a favourite poem? If you are a student, is poetry something you struggle with? Let me know and if you do have any questions then please do comment below, ask away because I would be delighted to get back to you.

Kate xo.

Rate & Pace.

Hello everyone and welcome back to Theory Thursday. Last week I broke down Form & Themes so you should check that out if you haven’t already. Today is slightly different because I am going to talk about two aspects of drama theory that I feel are really important and very useful when it comes to public speaking. So if you have an interview you need to prep for or you have a presentation to give at school or at work, if you’re starting college in September and you’re nervous about speaking to new people, or even if you just want to become a more confident speaker in general then keep reading because today I am breaking down Rate & Pace, and you just might find it helpful.

What does rate mean? What does pace mean?

Rate refers to the overall speed that a piece is spoken at. Pace refers to the variety of speed within that rate.

The rate a piece is spoken at depends on a few factors. 1 – Subject Matter. 2 – The speaker’s personal ability. 3 – The size of the venue. 4 – The type of audience.

For example, if a piece is sad and solemn then the overall rate should be slow, while an exciting or frantic piece would be much quicker. A bigger room will need a slower rate. When a speaker is nervous, they tend to speed up naturally because they wish to get through it. This is where mistakes are made. Slow down, and take a breath and if you think you are speaking slowly, I promise you that you’re not. Slow down again. This is something I’ve been guilty of in the past, not realising my own speed. Who are you speaking to? Is it co-workers? Fellow students? Friends? An older audience? Little kids? Think about all of these things when deciding the rate at which you are going to speak.

Pace must be varied because otherwise the speech will be monotonous, dull, and unpleasant to listen to.

Why are rate & pace important?

When it comes to public speaking, having an understanding of rate & pace is really helpful because being aware of how fast you are speaking, and the variety of speed in your speech will enable you to be more engaging, more confident, and more interesting to listen to. Most importantly, being aware of rate & pace will make you easier to understand. There is no point in flying through a speech, interview or presentation if when it’s over the listener doesn’t really know what you said because you spoke too fast, or your voice was so dull that they struggled to remain engaged. Knowing what you are going to say is only half the battle, how you say something is extremely important and I’ve often found that when it comes to good speakers, it’s not always that the topic they are discussing is really interesting, but rather they are really interesting to listen to. If you are planning a speech, prepping for an interview or presentation then the best advice I can give is to get a room and ask a friend to listen to you give your speech aloud. Pretend it’s the real thing and go for it. Ask them for feedback. Were they bored at any moment? Confused? Do they think you are speaking too fast or too slow? Take notes about what they say, make notes on your speech and practice again. Practice makes perfect and when it comes to public speaking, the only way to get better at it is to keep speaking in public, even if it’s just to one or two friends at first.

This knowledge does not only apply to public speaking, being aware of rate & pace will help you become a better conversationalist in general because the more you become aware of what you are saying and how you are saying it, then you will naturally become more engaging.

This has been my really simple breakdown of rate & pace. Let me know in the comments if public speaking is something that people would like more advice about because I can, and probably will do a Theory Thursday post about preparing a speech and giving tips for when someone is deciding what they want to say. I am also planning on talking about overcoming nerves and stage fright in future blog posts. So stay tuned, there is so much more to come.

Kate xo.

Form & Themes.

Hello everyone and welcome back to Theory Thursday. Today I am going to be talking about form and themes and how they should compliment each other, adding to the enjoyment of a text.

What is form? What is a theme? How do they compliment each other? Keep reading and find out.

Form, in its most simple definition refers to how a piece of writing is structured. So, readers should pay attention to how a piece of writing is organised, and structured, and keep an eye out for what type of language is used. Is it ordinary? Is it metrical? Don’t worry if you are unsure of what these terms mean, that’s what I’m here for. For example, there are different types of form. One of them is nonfiction prose and the point of nonfiction prose is to convey to the reader facts about reality, so the language used in nonfiction prose is usually straightforward, ordinary, non-metrical, easy to understand language because that is what gets the writer’s point across to readers.

Theme, in its most simple definition is the text’s main idea or underlying message. An easy way to identify the theme or themes of a text is to first look at the plot. When you look at the plot, the theme or themes become easier to recognise. Common themes would be love, death, rich versus poor etc.

For example, if one looks at Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, the play’s dominant theme is love as the entire plot revolves around the intense, passionate and yet forbidden love between Romeo and Juliet. There are other themes in this play, individuality vs society – this can be recognised through Romeo and Juliet deciding to be true to themselves and be together rather than feuding as their families expect them too etc. Violence of course is another theme because of this age-old feud and there is a lot of deaths in this play so as you can see, once one becomes familiar with a text’s plot, it becomes easier to form opinions about what one interprets the theme to be. I think an easy way to approach it is when thinking about a text and what it’s theme or themes may be is to think about what lesson you think you took from it. When you figure out what you learned from a text, you can begin to understand the messages that were presented in that text in order to teach that lesson. It may sound complicated, but the more you read and the more you watch films, the easier this will become.

In this section, I am going to talk about how form and theme can compliment each other and to do so, I am going to use an example. I am going to be talking about James Joyce’s Ulysses, specifically Episode Eighteen, Penelope. The reason I have chosen this text is because Joyce’s writing style has sometimes been described as hard to follow, but I think that if one takes a closer look, they will find that his style makes sense in the context of the stories he is trying to tell, and it actually enhances them.

Joyce writes about ordinary people who are living their ordinary lives and they are content. His work is incredibly relatable because Joyce writes about people who exist in real life and in Ulysses, his writing reads like a stream of consciousness as though readers are experiencing the character’s thoughts with them as they happen. If one looks at Episode Eighteen, Penelope, I think they will see why it could be argued that Joyce’s choice of form in this episode is what makes it a notable read. Joyce writes from the perspective of the character Molly, and he writes her perspective in eight ‘sentences’, that are separated by paragraph breaks and he does not use any punctuation.

In my opinion, this choice of form, this free- flowing stream of consciousness really compliments the way Joyce is sharing Molly’s thoughts because when reading them, it feels as though we are experiencing her thoughts with her as she has them. Her thoughts change rapidly and she bounces from one thought to another so upon one’s first reading, it may not seem very coherent, however thoughts are not always coherent. This may sound very confusing, but within this freestyle form a pattern is established. Molly has a thought, she is processing it, she gets distracted and thinks of something else, and then she circles back to her original thought.

I think this is a fairly relatable thing, I’m sure we have all been thinking only to get distracted and then bring our attention back to the task at hand. Molly’s thoughts are unedited so therefore, Joyce’s writing style appears unedited. I think this is particularly brilliant because it is so relatable. We don’t edit our thoughts in real life, we simply think. The use of form here makes Molly a well-rounded, relatable character and the themes and emotions that are presented in this piece, lust, annoyance, etc, are not coherent emotions either. If someone is seething with anger, then their thoughts may not be rational or coherent so again, this choice of form is very well matched to the emotions that are being presented. So, in this episode, Joyce’s choice of form really lends itself to the emotions he is depicting and in my opinion, this text, specifically this episode is a really good example of how form and theme can work together and compliment each other, which leads to the text having more meaning.

In short, the free-flowing, unpunctuated form compliments the real, unedited human emotions and themes that Joyce is presenting in Ulysses.

Why do we need to know about form and theme?

I think that if you are an avid reader, then writing styles and themes are things that you will naturally start to notice over time. You will begin to see that one book may be written very differently to another, and if you notice that but are unsure of how to describe it, I’ll make it simple for you. You are starting to notice form. The way a text is written can really impact how much readers enjoy it. The way a text is written can impact how much readers understand it, so I would say that like all aspects of literary theory, form is important because it can add to our understanding and enjoyment of a text. Themes are important because they are what the text is about, what was the message? What did we take away from that story? Why does our favourite story mean so much to us? Why is a certain text extremely important or educationical? It is usually because of the themes a text presents and the message it conveys, so again in my opinion, having an understanding of theme will only add to your reading and/or viewing experiences.

So, this has been Theory Theory. I hope you enjoyed my breakdown of form and themes. Next week on Theory Thursday I will breakdown Rate and Pace, which will come in handy for job interviews, presentations, any kind of public speaking or even if you’d just like to become a more confident speaker in general it’ll really help you out. Make sure to check it out next week on Theory Thursday and if you have any questions about form and theme then let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

Kate xo.