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Section 001 / Fall 2004 / Susan Tichy / Tuesday 7:20-10:00 / Thompson Hall 106


Traditional approaches to the study of meter start out at a point that is, in truth, already half way through the subject -- smack in the middle of literary convention. Paul Fussell Poetic Meter and Poetic Form is the classic textbook of this approach, and highly useful. We will begin, however, a little closer to the beginning, with Derek Attridge's Poetic Rhythm. Attridge begins with the rhythms of spoken language and the processes by which they become regularized and abstracted into meter. He also offers some analytical tools useful for describing the relationship between phrasing and meter, which others seldom attempt. You will find some contradictions of method and of belief between these two books, but that's probably because both authors are thinking. You can too.

After two weeks on meter, we'll use Fussell and other sources to look at rhyme and stanza form, and their interpretive implications, before moving into Barbara Herrnstein-Smith's classic, yet strangely out of print, Poetic Closure, which brings a range of reading strategies to the study of poetic structure.

In each week's reading you will also find entries from Annie Finch and Kathrine Varnes, An Exultation of Forms. Some of these will shed light on the theory of verse forms; all will provide possibilities for your own poems.

Using the Princeton: Poetry has the most specialized vocabulary in literature. Sometimes this is annoying, sometimes funny, but in most cases it makes the discussion of poems more efficient and precise. Terms also sometimes illuminate the historical circumstances under which they evolved or have been used. I will list each week the terms you should be familiar with. It will then be your responsibility to look up definitions and applications, and to ask questions about terms you don't understand. The Princeton also includes entries on time periods, movements, and genres. I will list these prefaced by *. If we have vocabulary quizzes they will be unannounced.

Using the Form & Genre Lists: Some weeks you'll be asked to glean some of your reading from the List pages, which offer poems from all three anthology volumes. In most cases you won't be able to read all the poems listed; just browse around, trying to sample poems from different times or different poets, looking for what they have in common as well as what distinguishes them. Compiling the lists is very labor intensive, so some are more extensive than others. Because I have not previously taught with this particular combination of anthologies, I expect there are mistakes and omissions. Please let me know about discrepencies you find or poems you think should have been included.
Here is the List of Lists



Attridge: Prefatory material & Chapters 1-5
Finch & Varnes: Accentual Verse
If you have Raffel, read the Introduction (important!) & chapters 1-3, 5, 8

Vocabulary: (some of these will be in the Princeton; the rest are in Attridge): meter, rhythm, accentual meter, strong-stress meter, syllable-stress meter, scansion, caesura, (initial, medial, terminal caesura); duple and triple meter, enjambed (or run-on) line, end-stopped line, beats and offbeats, promotion, demotion, and virtual beats.

POEMS in Norton:

CHAUCER (14th c): Canterbury Tales 17 – read opening page or so
LANGLAND (14th c): Piers Plowman 58 – read opening page and contrast meter / alliteration w/ Chaucer’s opening lines
ANON: Timor Mortis 66, Corpus Christi Carol 67, Western Wind 68, Lyke-Wake Dirge 68, Sir Patrick Spens 87, Get Up and Bar the Door 97, Love Me Little Love Me Long 103

WILBUR: Junk 1532

And read a selection of poems from the Form & Genre Lists page 1, which includes a number of 4x4 poems in ballad meter, common measure, long measure, and some of the hymnal stanza forms. You'll also find a link there to a list of other "short quatrains" in iambic tetrameter among the quatrains listed on List page 4. On List page 2 you'll find "short couplets" (tetrameter) and a whole lot more pentameter poems. List of Lists