The Significance of Literary Knowledge in Parodic Poetry: A Look At Anthony Hecht’s "The Dover Bitch"
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A precritical response to any literature can be loosely defined as the initial raw, emotional reaction to the piece. The feeling of confusion, disgust, impassiveness, or pure joy can follow any reading. On the other hand, a critical response is a critical evaluation or, more specifically, an intellectual response to a piece of literature. Critically thinking about a piece of literature involves taking the work and breaking it down into different parts, thus aiding in understanding the work and specific parts of it to the work as a whole. However, this is easier said than done. Being able to think critically about a text takes a vast knowledge of literature and a keen eye to recognize patterns, and each form comes with its own difficulties when it comes to breaking the text down. Large texts make it harder to look back for evidence, and sometimes while reading with one frame of mind, key themes and ideas can be missed. Poems, on the other hand, can be vague and extremely difficult to pick apart. Poets rely on figurative language to make seemingly random word choices make sense within the right context, and having a vast knowledge of literature becomes essential when reading poetry because one never knows when an allusion can make all the difference. Anthony Hecht’s poem The Dover Bitch provides a good example of how figurative language and knowledge of a previous literary work can interfere with one’s precritical and critical response creating a situation wherein experiencing the poem as an emotional and intellectual work of art is nearly nonexistent.
The Dover Bitch is a parody of Matthew Arnold’s Dover Beach. In Dover Beach, the speaker is standing on the coast of England talking to a woman supposedly sitting in the back of a ro...
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...ing in the genre of a parody can further complicate the process of obtaining a precritical response even more. Because a parody is essentially an extended allusion and recognizing the connection is further evidence of thinking critically. It is this feature of the parody that makes the chances of having a full, unhindered experience of parodic poetry a rare feat.
Arnold, Matthew. "Dover Beach." 1973. The Norton Introduction to Literature. By Alison Booth and Kelly J. Mays. 10th ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2010. 916-17. Print.
Hecht, Anthony. "The Dover Bitch." 1973. The Norton Introduction to Literature. By Alison Booth and Kelly J. Mays. 10th ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2010. 1229. Print.
"Parody." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 9 Feb. 2011. Web. 13 Feb. 2011. .