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Unseen Poetry

9. Terminology

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About this Lecture


In this module, we introduce the ‘McRae Checklist’, a list of eleven features of poetry that can provide starting points for analysis.

The McRae Checklist:
– Lexis: the choice of words
– Syntax: the way the words are put together
– Cohesion: what links the text together
– Phonology: the sounds of the text
– Graphology: the look of the text
– Semantics: the potential meanings of the text
– Dialect: the dialect of the text
– Register: the formality of the language
– Period: when the text was written
– Function: what the text is trying to do
– Style


In this seventeen-part course, Professor John McRae (University of Nottingham) provides a step-by-step guide for approaching unseen poetry. The first three modules introduce key concepts (e.g. the ‘movement’ the poem, ‘binaries’, etc.) as well as the more concrete approaches (e.g. compare the first and last lines, look at the verbs, etc.). In modules four to eight, these concepts and approaches are applied to five unseen poems. This is followed in the ninth module with a discussion of the eleven features of poetry that can provide useful starting points for analysis – lexis, syntax, graphology, semantics, etc. In the final eight modules after that, we demonstrate the same approach with eight more poems – four of them very famous, and four of them less so.


John McRae is Special Professor of Language in Literature Studies and Teaching Associate in the School of English at Nottingham University, and holds Visiting Professorships in China, Malaysia, Spain and the USA. He is co-author of The Routledge History of Literature in English with Ron Carter, and also wrote The Language of Poetry, Literature with a Small 'l' and the first critical edition of Teleny by Oscar Wilde and others.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

McRae, J. (2020, October 12). Unseen Poetry - Terminology [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, J. "Unseen Poetry – Terminology." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 12 Oct 2020,

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