Saturday, March 09, 2013

Reflections: Leitwortstil

Hi, folks. I'm continuing my series about theme. Last week I chatted about what theme is. This week I'm going to dig into leitwortstil. My, isn't that a swanky word. It's an even more swanky idea, especially if you want theme to pop within your work.

The word comes from Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig, Jewish philosophers who translated the Hebrew Bible into German the early part of the 20th century. These two guys coined leitwortstil: "Leading word style."  So what is this style all about?  Throughout a narrative the author chooses to repeat a word or the root of word. This perfectly placed repetition helps readers grasp the meaning of a story. The root, word or phrase hits with punch. Leading words catch the readers attention, and most of all create a resonating moment of thought in the reader. My total thought about leitworstil is well-placed repetition can thrum thematic chords within your work.

You can move beyond leading words and use leading clauses and sentences. A innocuous repeated phrase in STAR WARS comes to mind that packs a mighty punch; "I've got a bad feeling about this." It's written for comedic effect but it also adds thematic strength to the storytelling. I feel the waves of meaning, vibrating in that sentence -- something about the irony of existence, something about this stuff always happens to me, something about  how I knew this was the wrong way to go and yet here I am caught in the glue.

The repetition makes us laugh, but under there we think. We connect. We commiserate. The waters of meaning are stirred up. We peek behind the veil. I absolutely don't think Lucas was intentionally stirring up theme when he wrote the line. It probably just felt right, and every time it repeated it kept feeling right. I really do think our instincts, impressions, and feelings must be listened to when folding theme into the mix.

Hope this makes you think about leading words. Next week I will expand, and dig into thematic patterning. I hope you come back for more on theme.  Meanwhile, seize the day. 

The doodle this week is from my daughter Jubilee: "Handstand."


Finally a quote for your pocket.

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart.. Helen Keller


Faith Pray said...

Sometimes theme is so subtle, I just catch the edges of it as I read, like a dream I can't quite remember. So many things to keep in mind as I write!

Molly/Cece said...

Hi Faith! I love this description of theme. I think you throw these ideas to back and let whisper to you as you go. Hope you writing is moving along.