The Illiterate

Rhetoric in William Meredith's "The Illiterate" College

Rhetoric in The Illiterate

Gregerson’s article “Rhetorical Contract in the Lyric Poem” expounds upon the purpose of lyric poetry. She posits that there is a relationship between the reader and the speaker that extends beyond utilitarian or surface purposes, claiming that a contract forms between these two parties. Throughout the article, Gregerson applies the notions of subtext and of hidden meaning to various lyric poems. She states that a lyric poem tells a story, but in a roundabout way. Instead of perfectly outlining a plot, the reader must delve into the space between the words and decipher the true meaning of the poem.

In particular, Gregerson’s thoughts on Meredith’s The Illiterate add complexity to its surface read. She claims that Meredith constructs a conception of the self in a way that uses the actual words of the poem rather than just the base meanings they possess. Choices in syntax, grammar, and content provide cues to the deeper personality of the poem. The reader must closely examine Meredith’s syntax and question his every choice of word and punctuation. The reader attempts to get inside Meredith’s thought process, forming a uniquely close bond between the poet and the reader. As small details gain...

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