2. Ideological opposition is manifested in
the texts through the way in which they
organize the elements of the story.
Texts, in fact, reveal their ideology to us -
not the other way round.
All texts - literary, historical or otherwise
- are ideological or are shaped by
Ideology is not “irrelevant” to literary
Some key concepts of
3. Co-text represents a specific place at a
specific moment – Saigon, during Vietnam
War, being bombed by the US Air Force –
while the speaker in the text avoids naming
either the place or the time being alluded to.
Text: even though there are no explicit
references to a particular time, place or
characters, Bishop s poem does allow us‟ to
locate ourselves: the title – “12 O’Clock
News” – invites us to situate ourselves in
front of the TV or the radio listening to a
4. Connection between McCarthy’s prose
extract (co-text) and Bishop’s poem (text).
Aconnection” can be a similarity or a contrast,
a parallel or a difference, a presence or an
no title title title
prose (seeming) prose
paragraphs (seeming) paragraphs
Co-text vs Text
5. standard format non-standard
single typography double
lone Vietnamese on a bicycle unicyclist-
Vietnam is identified no country identified
historical period inferred no historical
America criticized America not mentioned
explicitly anti-war anti-war sentiment implied
Reportage /report mock reportage/report
Press simulated radio/TV news
War as theme
death as theme
1st person narrator /speaker
Use of pronouns
Use of irony
7. This is not an event that could take place, for
instance, in the desert or the Arctic Circle or in
a swimming pool or an operating theatre.
Bishop connects us to 20th century technology
and casts the reader as the recipient/consumer
of a particular product, probably from within
his/her own home: the news bulletin and,
within that, the war dispatch.
This is a very familiar experience – think of
news coverage of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan,
Somalia, etc. In fact, the absence of a specific
context makes it easier for the reader to relate
the poem to other wars, places and peoples.
we know exactly where we and the narrator are
located – South Vietnam during the US air
offensive in the Vietnam War.
The narrator speaks from the Western side even
though she does express some sympathy for the
Vietnamese and criticizes American intervention.
As readers, we receive this passage as news
reportage and/or a chronicle of real events.
We are more likely to limit ourselves to the time
and place of what is being represented, rather
than extend our reading to include conflicts in
other places or times.
9. The co-text encourages us to fix or
stabilize meaning in the text.
Reading the two together also draws
attention to their differences, contrasts
While the themes may be very similar
(anti-imperialist, anti-war, sympathy for
the victims of war), we are reminded
how these themes (indeed, any themes)
can be expressed through different
forms and how, in turn, form shapes our
10. Form is central to how a text (any text)
produces meaning and how the reader
receives that same text.
The fact that Bishop’s poem has the title it
has and looks like a news bulletin, therefore,
encourages us to read it as such.
However, there are aspects which distance
the text from this particular genre: the words
in the margin, for instance.
One effect of this device is to draw attention
to the language and shape of the text,
something that poetry tends to do (see the
exercises for the Dylan Thomas poem).
11. Intra-connections (within the Text)
If we read just the words in the left-hand
margin we get the impression of a situation or
activity connected to writing in the days
before computer technology.
Many of the objects of course are still part of
our 21st century reality: the lamp, the
manuscripts, the envelopes and ashtray. In
fact, even the typewriter, ink-bottle and
eraser are still preferred by some writers.
Nevertheless, the absence of digital
technology already affects how we read this
13. gooseneck lamp: the lamp
connects to the full moon
and the light shed by both.
The moon sheds “little or‟
“poor light, suggesting the‟
lamp also gives off dim
In English, the expression
“to shed light has a literal‟
and a figurative sense,
meaning both to shed
physical light in darkened
surroundings and also “to
clarify or illuminate a‟
situation or mystery.
14. typewriter: the typewriter rows of keys
anticipate the image of “those small,
peculiarly shaped terraces”, connecting a
contemporary (and urban?) object to a
timeless (“What endless labor…”) and rural
15. pile of manuscripts.: if we assume manuscripts to
be white in colour, then this would connect to the
image of the “white, calcareous, and shaly” soil.
The last adjective – shaly – refers to “soft finely
stratified rock […] consisting of consolidated mud
or clay” and also reinforces the image of sheets of
paper piled on top of one another.
16. typed sheets: again, this reaches out to the
image of “a large rectangular “field […]. It is‟
dark-speckled”, which recalls a sheet of paper
covered in typed words resembling “dark-
17. envelopes: the visual parallel is somewhat less
obvious here, though references to
“communications , “industrialization and‟ ‟
“sign-boards suggest‟ a continued attempt to
connect the practice of written communication
to the environment or world represented in
the right-hand text.
18. ink-bottle: the “mysterious, oddly
shaped, black structure” echoes
the shape of the ink-bottle we can
imagine the speaker to have on
his/her desk or at least within
his/her field of vision as h/she
writes the “12 o’clock news”.
The blackness of the ink picks
up the “little light” and “poor
visibility” of the first paragraph.
Here we are told that the
moonlight is “feeble”. The absence
of proper illumination seems to
suggest an inability to understand
or relate to the events the speaker
19. typewriter eraser: again, the
imagistic or visual
connections here are
elusive On the other hand,
the presence of an eraser
seems to anticipate the
“erasure” of the life of the
Note how indirectly the
death of the cyclist is
conveyed: “he appears to be
– rather, to have been – a
unicyclist courier, who may
have met his end […]. Alive,
he would have been…”.
Death is expressed through
the past, modal and
conditional forms of the
verb, rather than the simple
present or a declarative
20. ashtray: perhaps the most
striking equivalence between
left- and right-hand texts. The
“nest of “soldiers” lying‟
“heaped together” and “in
hideously contorted positions,
all dead” vividly mirrors the
image of an ashtray full of
half-smoked cigarettes or
Is the speaker saying that the
dead war victims have no more
significance for the west than
cigarette butts in an ashtray?
21. Or is there another
(implicit) attempt to
implicate the West in the
horrors of the war that it is
perpetrating on “the
Note that the poem ends
here with an unequivocal
image of death, a theme
which has only been
suggested in previous
“paragraphs . It’s almost as‟
if “12 O’Clock News” has
been building up to this
final moment to give us the
message: WAR KILLS.
22. This poem seems to be about armed aggression
or war and its human consequences.
The shape of the poem itself suggests division
and conflict: the items listed on the left are
western, industrialized, modern, while the
scenes and events described on the right are
non-western, rural, backward (according to the
However, on closer reading this “binary
opposition is subverted by the seeming‟
connections between the two halves of the
23. The them/us binary suggested by the
imperialist, condescending tone of the
speaker (“this people”, “the elusive
natives”, “From our superior vantage
position”, etc.) and the visually separate
texts, is undermined by the poem’s
strategy to make connections between
its left and right hand.
Is the poem, through its integrating
strategy, suggesting that art (the
attempt to give shape to experience) can
redeem us from atrocities such as war?