Week 3: Interpreting Figurative Language & Imagery

Last week, our discussion of poetry introduced you to how to read a poem (and how not to torture it or yourself when doing so), and how poems use language to make meaning. You were introduced to a number of resources that helped you read not just for comprehension or what the poems mean but how language is used and how your imagination can transform your reading experience, and make life less ordinary. Now that you've got some basic poetic devices in your vocabulary, we'll tackle bigger, more global uses of language in literature!

The term “figurative” is an antonym of “literal.” In literal language, the words convey meaning exactly as defined in the dictionary, whereas in figurative language, the reader is needed, in fact required, to interact imaginatively with the words on the page. Figurative language is magical, and it creates strong emotional connections with poems and with others. If we can't imagine a reality, we can't live that reality.

I make a distinction between poetic devices, which we studied last week, and figurative language. You'll find some overlap, of course, but poetic devices such as rhyme and enjambment, for example, are restricted to poetry. Figurative language, like metaphor and simile, on the other hand, is not only used in poetry, but will also appear in plays and fiction, which we'll read later in the course.

Learning Objectives for Week 3

By the end of this week, you will be able to...

  • Distinguish between literal and figurative language
  • Decipher the speaker of the poem, and his or her role
  • Recognize the context of a poem
  • Define figurative language terms including simile, metaphor, and image.
  • Apply figurative language to your own writing to show rather than tell.

You'll also be getting to know your classmates and instructor a bit better, too! Now, move to the next page of this tutorial. Use the "next page" link in the upper right corner of the unit OR click through the table of contents to view all pages and folders.