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Stylistics Week 4: Context

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Stephen Pihlaja

on 5 September 2013

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Transcript of Stylistics Week 4: Context

Without reading the review, what did you think this song about?
Are there lyrical elements that ‘transcend’ the context in which the song was written?
What effect does the context of Ocean’s letter have the interpretation of the lyrical elements of the song?
How does our cultural context influence the possible readings we might afford the song?
Activity 2
Bad Religion
List any contextual factors which could contribute to how a text is produced and read. Think about political contexts, social contexts, environmental contexts, etc.
How are the features of context seen in the writing of the text? In the interpretation of the text?
What tools does literary linguistics offer us for understanding how readers understand their own context through the text as well as the context the text creates?
Activity 1
Literature in context
Read TEUN A. VAN DIJK on Critical Discourse Analysis
For seminar
Review of ‘Bad Religion’ in Pitchfork
Don't call it a coming out. Because the tone of the text-edit document read 'round the world last week felt so different from what we're used to when public figures decide to tell the world that they love people of the same gender: no trumpets, no confetti, no glossy magazine-cover smiles. No, the striking thing about Frank Ocean's poetic testimony about loving and losing a man was that it was a story without a happy ending, written by someone who didn't profess to have it all figured out but who was still searching, still hoping, still fumbling. Ocean's voice felt lonely, singular, and yet universally relatable.
The first few seconds of "Bad Religion" capture the chord that letter struck in your head when you first read it: a moaning organ echoing through an empty church, the kind of place you'd drag yourself to in the dead of a rock-bottom night to light a candle for someone you're not even sure is listening. "Taxi driver, be my shrink for an hour/ Leave the meter running…just outrun the demons, could you?" The driver replies with an "Allah Hu Akbar" that Ocean first takes as a curse, but then he realizes it's a blessing; his listener's empathy comes as a surprise. The most memorable line of that note was the first one, "Whoever you are, wherever you are…I'm starting to think we're a lot alike," and this song turns those words into feeling. "Bad Religion" is empathy made flesh: it's the most arresting song he's ever sung because everybody-- gay, straight or none of the above-- has had a night that sounds like this. If it doesn't bring you to your knees, check your pulse.
Bad Religion
Bad Religion by Frank Ocean

Taxi driver
Be my shrink for the hour
Leave the meter running
It's rush hour
So take the streets if you wanna
Just outrun the demons, could you

He said "Allahu akbar", I told him don't curse me
"Bo Bo, you need prayer" - I guess it couldn't hurt me
If it brings me to my knees
It's a bad religion
This unrequited love
To me it's nothing but a one-man cult
And cyanide in my styrofoam cup
I can never make him love me
Never make him love me

Love me, love me, love me, love me, love me, love me, love me love

[Verse 2]
Taxi driver
I swear I've got three lives
Balanced on my head like steak knives
I can't tell you the truth about my disguise
I can't trust no one
It's a bad religion
To be in love with someone
Who could never love you
I know
Only bad religion
Could have me feeling the way I do
What does discourse do?
Power relations are discursive
Discourse constitutes society and culture
Discourse does ideological work
Discourse is historical
The link between text and society is mediated
Discourse is a form of social action
TEUN A. VAN DIJK citing Fairclough and Wodak (1997: 271-80)
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