Silence and Sound: Theories of Poetics from the Eighteenth Century

Silence and Sound: Theories of Poetics from the Eighteenth Century

by Richard Bradford
     
 

Reading poems silently and reading them aloud involve two separate dimensions of understanding, and unless we accept that "silent poetics" and spoken performance create tensions and ambiguities that can only be resolved through the readers' control of both experiences, we will perpetuate an inaccurate perception of how poetry works. Such a challenge to the traditional…  See more details below

Overview

Reading poems silently and reading them aloud involve two separate dimensions of understanding, and unless we accept that "silent poetics" and spoken performance create tensions and ambiguities that can only be resolved through the readers' control of both experiences, we will perpetuate an inaccurate perception of how poetry works. Such a challenge to the traditional communicative priorities of speech and writing is probably familiar to readers of concrete poetry and poststructuralist theory, but it occurred, with startling consequences, in the work of a number of eighteenth-century critics. These writers found themselves dealing with a poetic "tradition" barely 150 years old, and they lacked a single methodology or code of interpretation through which they might deal with the complex relation between structure and effect. This sense of uncertainty was further intensified by the appearance of Paradise Lost, a poem that fractured the fragile interpretive conventions of the late seventeenth century. The most valuable critical work of the period has been marginalized by modern literary history because of its ability to move beyond any established interpretive precedent. It is valuable because critics such as Samuel Woodford, John Walker, Thomas Sheridan, and Joshua Steele constructed critical methods according to their own individual experience of reading, with no concessions to theoretical abstraction or to a priori notions of correctness. Their names and their writing have made brief and unremarkable appearances in bibliographies of linguistics and histories of English prosody, but it is their ability to unsettle the accepted codes and expectations of prosodic analysis that makes their readings so perceptive and intriguing. Some came to the conclusion that meaning could be generated independently from within the silent configurations of the printed text, a process that could operate as a threat both to the logic of sequential language and to the ideal of oral t

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780838634356
Publisher:
Fairleigh Dickinson University Press
Publication date:
06/01/1992
Pages:
232

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