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Literary Explication: Literary Explication

Explication definition, helpful tips and resources.

What is Literary Explication?

Explication Definition

A poetry explication is a relatively short analysis which describes the possible meanings and relationships of the words, images, and other small units that make up a poem. Writing an explication is an effective way for a reader to connect a poem’s subject matter with its structural features.

From Poetry Explications handout created by The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"Explication de Texte" from The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics

In literary analysis, explication de texte may be considered similar to *close reading. It originated as a mode of analysis typical to the Fr. educational system, in which the student provides a commentary on a short literary work or an extract from a longer work. The term may also be applied to the analysis of an extract from a philosophical text.

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"Explication" from The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics

A procedure for interpreting poetry that was conceived and developed in the 20th c. under several auspices: in France as 'explication de texte according to principles articulated by the literary critic Gustave Lanson, director of the École Normale Supérieure, and others; and in the U.S., the U.K., and other Eng.-speaking countries under the influence of I. A. Richards, William Empson, Cleanth Brooks, and other critics whose work was identified sympathetically by John Crowe Ransom in the book The New Criticism (1941). Explication typically involves a statement of the argument or theme of the poem, an inventory of formal and rhetorical elements, and a running annotation of difficult or opaque items. 

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