English 203

Graduate Readings: Poetic Meter

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Spring 2010 Hanson, Kristin
Hanson, Kristin
MW 1:30-3 305 Wheeler

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The principal text for the course will be a draft of a book I am writing as an introduction to the subject; we will use it and the poetry on which its claims are based to establish a common foundation from which each student will explore the metrical practice of a poet or poets of his or her own choosing.


This course will provide a basic introduction to the major meters of the modern English poetic tradition from the perspective of a theory of meter rooted in generative linguistics. Taking the strict iambic pentameter of Shakespeare's Sonnets, the looser iambic pentameter of Shakespeare's plays, and Hopkins' Sprung Rhythm pentameter as representatives of three distinct but overlapping meters, we will explore the structural properties of stress, syllable count and caesura placement in these forms, the ranges of variation they allow, their different manifestations in closely related forms and in the practice of other poets, their aesthetic effects in particular poems, their formal relationships to their Romance, Old English and Classical Latin and Greek influences, and most fundamentally, their relationships to the rhythmic structure of language itself. No prior background in either metrics or linguistics is required.

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