What are the literary devices for deciding if there is implicit or explicit subjectivity in a poem?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Subjectivity can occur in poetry on three levels: (1) the poem itself and it's orientation of meaning away from or toward (a) personal impressions and ideas and (b) experience versus fiction; (2) the speaker's or poet's voice; and (3) the addressee of the poem. Implicit (suggested, indirect) and explicit (clear, direct) qualities of subjectivity occur in relation to the (a) the speaker/poet voice and (b) the addressee.

Literary devices that identify implicit/explicit subjectivity relating to the speaker/poet voice are structural and semantic, which are both literary devices in the literary element category (literary techniqaue being the other category). Implict subjectivity in the speaker/poet voice may be suggested by striking graphical features, like oddly indented lines and word or line isolation; these would suggest the subjective personal experience of the speaker or poet vioce. It may also be suggested in word choices and sentence structures even if the objective clue of first person pronouns isn't used. For instance, "Seeing images reflecting / back to pale and to cower" is implicitly subjective even though I, my, me are not used.

Explicit spealer/poet subjectivity doesn't rely on graphical features to demonstrate subjectivity because semantic features like word choice will clearly illustrate explicit subjectivity. Similarly, an implicit versus explicit addressee relies on semantic features. For instance, Poe often structures his poems with an implied addressee as in "The Raven": "Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary." In this poem, the subjective speaker is explicit ("I") and the addressee is implied via the structural element of omitting any reference to an addressee. By contrast, Browning's poem, "My Last Duchess," has both an explicit speaker ("That's my last duchess painted on the wall,") and an explicit addressee ("there she stands. / Will't please you sit and look at her?"), both made explicit through the literary element of strucutre as it pertains to semantics (i.e., arising from the meanings of words).

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