Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles [book pages flipping]. Hello once again students and welcome to The Close Reading Cooperative, the podcast in literary analysis for English majors. I'm Christopher Hanlon of Eastern Illinois University. I'm C. C. Wharram, same place and today we're going to talk about a poem, which is actually a song from Montreal, Canada, a place where the poets often transform into singer/songwriters. You think of people like Leonard Cohen. (Dr. Hanlon). There's Leonard Cohen, there's other Canadians like K.D. Lang. (Dr. Wharram). K.D. Lang. (Dr. Hanlon). Bill Shatner. (Dr. Wharram). Bill Shatner, he actually has an album, and the group I want to talk about is Arcade Fire, a group of Montreal musicians who have a new album out called, "The Suburbs", and a song from that is called "Sprawl II". You know the song? (Dr. Hanlon). You have played it for me and, you know, I like your music okay, yeah. (Dr. Wharram). But the song is called "Sprawl II" because sprawl is such a big topic it needs two songs. So it's "Sprawl I"--we're not going to talk about--"Sprawl II", it's over the borders, and the lines I'd like to talk about are from the chorus and they go something like this. [read lyrics]. So you've heard that, you saw it on the screen. (Dr. Hanlon). I hear a literary device. (Dr. Wharram). What's the literary device that you see? (Dr. Hanlon). I hear a literary device, I think I see a "simile". (Dr. Wharram). Simile is indeed correct. Now the first part of good close reading is to identify the actual device, which you've done with a plum. (Dr. Hanlon). Thank you. (Dr. Wharram). And the simile is? (Dr. Hanlon). Well the simile--like a metaphor--consists of a vehicle and a tenor, right? (Dr. Wharram). That's correct. (Dr. Hanlon). I think what we've got here is shopping malls being like mountains after mountains. (Dr. Wharram). Yup, mountains beyond mountains, so the simile is like mountains beyond mountains, and that is describing the tenor, which is the shopping malls. And basically you've got it taken apart according to the formula that you and Suzie Park so graciously gave us in a previous podcast. (Dr. Hanlon). So we've got tenor: shopping malls; vehicle: mountains after mountains, mountains beyond mountains. (Dr. Wharram). Now, the question is, what do you do with that? Once you start taking it apart, what is the effect of saying that shopping malls are like, or yeah, are like mountains beyond mountains. When you hear the phrase "like mountains beyond mountains", what sort of ideas come to your mind? What sort of... (Dr. Hanlon). I just sort of--to tell you the truth--I just sort of picture something. I mean I just sort of picture scenes that I've seen on television. (Dr. Wharram). Like alpine scenes, or television sort of scenes. (Dr. Hanlon). Yeah, like photographs, Ansel Adams paintings. (Dr. Wharram). Crane shots that look from mountains beyond mountains. (Dr. Hanlon). Yeah, yeah. (Dr. Wharram). Okay, so you're looking for something that looks like it's sort of a painter-like, or a filmic sort of rendition of something. Yes, mountains beyond mountains, it does give you that sense of an aesthetic sort of quality, yes. Is there anything else that comes to mind when you think of mountains beyond mountains? (Dr. Hanlon). Well, if the mountains are beyond the mountains, I guess I think of a valley and I think of the trough of that valley, you know, in between the mountains, kind of you're caught in between. (Dr. Wharram). It's very much a geographical or a physical geological, perhaps sort of a, sort of a description, right. So we basically have kind of almost two choices here that you can sort of make. Are we talking about sort of an aesthetic, sort of painterly rendition or a filmic rendition of something, or are we talking about a sort of physical geographical qualities or something? Now you can build an interpretation of this particular passage from Arcades Fire's "Sprawl II", on either one, or you can probably do it with both. And what sort of like argument could you make about what this song is trying to impart, when you sort of bring these ideas together. (Dr. Hanlon). Well, you know when I look... (Dr. Wharram). I'm asking, I'm asking Dr. Hanlon to do some pretty tough thinking, on the spot. (Dr. Hanlon). Well, when I look at the words that you've read to us, to tell you the truth, I don't get the sense that what is being related to me here is a beautiful scene, that the shopping mall is a painterly beautiful place. Maybe it is in a way, but I do get the sense that kind of entrapped feel, that sense that I'm caught some place, almost as if between two ridges or something like that. (Dr. Wharram). "Dead shopping malls, Rise like mountains beyond...". (Dr. Hanlon). Did I get it right? Did I get it right? (Dr. Wharram). Well, I think that there's a way of actually bringing the two of them together. I mean basically, it's not necessarily in the aesthetics of beauty, as being something that's beautiful, but it's the sort of aesthetics of you know, being trapped. I mean the two of them can come together, the trappedness, the fact that basically, what's being replaced in your sort of environment, or your ecological sort of center is mountains are being replaced by dead shopping malls. (Dr. Hanlon). And in a way, shopping malls actually can be beautiful. I mean, you know, the glittering storefront is very attractive in its own way. (Dr. Wharram). Yeah, I suppose you're right. (Dr. Hanlon). I know, we're not supposed to say that, right. We're supposed to be, you know, liberal arts people but you know. (Dr. Wharram). True, but... (Dr. Hanlon). And entrapping. (Dr. Wharram). But not if they're dead. (Dr. Hanlon). Not if they're dead, that's true. (Dr. Wharram). And I think that we've missed out on that adjective, "dead" shopping malls, because that word "dead" sort of changes everything a little bit too. Because it makes it sound like they were once sort of an organic part of this ecology and now they've become dead, they're piling up one upon the other like bodies during an infestation. (Dr. Hanlon). Like sediment. (Dr. Wharram). Like sediment, oh there you go. How are mountains formed; in the same way. (Dr. Hanlon). I was thinking of the vehicle, that let me say that. (Dr. Wharram). That's very nice. So you can see, you can start to make an argument about the complex way that Arcade Fire used the simplest, the simplest of literary devices, the simile. The one that's easiest to locate because it's got a "like" or an "as", you see those two words, you identify it. But it's more than just sort of saying, it's a simile. It's starting to create an argument and recognizing the ramifications of that device. Once you start to take it apart and look at how language is sort of making this point in a complex way. (Dr. Hanlon). Every simile, every metaphor is an argument about reality. It's a proposition, isn't it? (Dr. Wharram). That's nicely put. (Dr. Hanlon). Thank you, I do it for a living. (Dr. Wharram). That's enough. (Dr. Hanlon). Okay, I think that's enough probably for this week for The Close Reading Cooperative, we'll see you next week students.