Foregrounding and Interpretation1

'Poetry's unnatural', said Mr Weller; 'No one ever talked poetry 'cept a beadle on boxin' day.'2 In concentrating on the abnormalities of poetic language in Chapter 3, we saw that there is truth, in a sense, in at least the first part of Mr Weller's remark. But what we have to consider in this chapter is something beyond Mr Weller's matter-of-fact wisdom: how the apparently unnatural, aberrant, even nonsensical, is justified by significance at some deeper level of interpretation. This question has been raised informally in earlier chapters, especially in connection with the Examples for Discussion, for to have tried to separate deviance altogether from significance would have been a very artificial exercise. But we need to give the subject more careful attention.

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