Jackie Kay’s ‘Things Fall Apart’: The Relevance of Linguistic Repetition

By Mª del Coral Calvo Maturana.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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This paper carries out a stylistic study of the poem ‘Things Fall Apart’, included in Jackie Kay’s poetic collection ‘Life Mask’ (2005). Kay is a well-known Scottish contemporary writer who has written widely in various genres such as novels, short stories, drama, and poetry. Much of her production explores the concept of identity. For instance, the poetic voice in this poem describes the first encounter with her biological father. In this presentation we focus on the language and, in particular, on the role of repetition, one of the key features in the understanding of the poem. We notice the significance of repetition through lexis, semantic fields, and parallelism. Furthermore, as regards the patterns built in the poem, we consider the relevance of the distribution of syntax in lines (grammetrics). Repetition might be considered to be a negative aspect in speech, a feature to avoid, since it might show that the speaker or writer does not have enough range of vocabulary; therefore, its speech might be labelled as poor. On the other hand, as we will conclude bearing in mind its role in the poem, repetition can also be a very powerful resource in language and communication, used strategically to persuade someone, make the hearer or reader remember something or someone, emphasize an idea, or transmit values such as emotions.

Keywords: Repetition, Stylistics, Jackie Kay, Things Fall Apart

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 9, Issue 11, pp.183-196. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 822.420KB).

Dr. Mª del Coral Calvo Maturana

PhD Student, Departamento de Filologías Inglesa y Alemana, Universidad de Granada, Granada, Spain

I am a PhD student at the University of Granada, Spain. I have been attached to the ‘English and German Department’ in this university for four years as a FPU member (funded by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science). I hold a Master’s Degree in ‘English Literature and Linguistics’ (2008). At the moment, I am at the last stage of my PhD dissertation, a corpus stylistic study of Jackie Kay’s poetic collection ‘The Adoption Papers’ (Kay, 1991: 10–34). My research field is Stylistics, Scottish Literature, and Corpus Linguistics. I spent one year at Edinburgh University as an Erasmus undergraduate student. Later, as a PhD student, I stayed four months at Glasgow University, under the supervision of Dr. Gerry Carruthers, and three months at Birmingham University, under the supervision of Prof. Michael Toolan. I have presented papers at several international conferences such as Spinning Scotland, CLAVIER 09, CILC 09, PALA 2010, ESSE-10, CL2011 and AEDEAN 32. Some of my publications are “Jackie Kay’s Representation of ‘The Broons’: Scotland’s Happy Family” (in eSharp, Special Issue, 2009: 109–143) or “‘Language at its most rich’: Jackie Kay’s ‘I always wanted to give birth’“ (in Amengual, Juan and Salazar. 2009. ‘New Perspectives on English Studies’, pp.182–188).


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