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(In the school chapel)
Around me the students move with faces frozen in solemn masks, and I seem to hear already the voices mechanically raised in the songs the visitors loved. (Loved? Demanded. Sung? An ultimatum accepted and ritualized, an allegiance recited for the peace it imparted, and for that perhaps loved. Loved as the defeated come to love the symbols of their conquerors. A gesture of acceptance, of terms laid down and reluctantly approved.) And here, sitting rigid, I remember the evenings spent before the sweeping platform in awe and in pleasure, and in the pleasure of awe; remember the short formal sermons intoned from the pulpit there, rendered in smooth articulate tones, with calm assurance purged of that wild emotion of the crude preachers most of us knew in our home towns and of whom we were deeply ashamed, these logical appeals which reached us more like the thrust of a firm and formal design requiring nothing more than the lucidity of uncluttered periods, the lulling movement of multisyllabic words to thrill and console us. And I remember, too, the talks of visiting speakers, all eager to inform us of how fortunate we were to be a part of the "vast" and formal ritual. How fortunate to belong to this family sheltered from those lost in ignorance and darkness
(Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man)

I am not familiar with the English past participle usages and phrases used as supplementation. I suspect, but am not quite sure, that the two are mixed at the highlighted part. Would you explain the constructions?

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    This is really a LitCrit question, not a linguistic one, and will (and perhaps should) probably be closed; but that in itself demands an explanation of some sort. – StoneyB on hiatus Jun 26 '13 at 3:36
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This discourse is structured on quite different principles than those of conventional syntax or conventional rhetoric -- in fact, you see Ellison explicitly repudiating traditional syntax and rhetoric in the bitter irony of those logical appeals which reached us more like the thrust of a firm and formal design requiring nothing more than the lucidity of uncluttered periods, the lulling movement of multisyllabic words to thrill and console us.

The passage is developed in the same way a jazz musician improvises on a banal "standard" tune. The conventional description of the scene provides a controlling structure, but from the outset Ellison permits himself to tweak the convention with sarcastic 'blue' notes - frozen, mechanical. In the parenthesis he takes up the key notes of the melody, sing and love, and with growing passion repudiates these wholly stereotyped emotional values, something like this:

The songs are loved? - No, they are demanded ...
The songs are sung? - No, not songs sung but an ultimatum accepted, an allegiance recited ...
The songs are loved - Yes, as the defeated come to love ...

And now he's off and running, reshaping the melody, redrawing the scene in the form suggested by his own experience.

The governing principle is not the formal logic of syntax but the emotional logic of the author's response.

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  • Thank you very much. This is only could have been understood through the LitCrit. – Listenever Jun 26 '13 at 3:59
  • @Listenever Yeah, that's the problem with Literature! – StoneyB on hiatus Jun 26 '13 at 4:20

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