This book shows how rhythm constitutes an untapped resource for understanding poetry. Intervening in recent debates over formalism, historicism, and poetics, the authors show how rhythm is at once a defamiliarizing aesthetic force and an unstable concept. Distinct from the related terms to which it’s often assimilatedscansion, prosody, meterrhythm makes legible a range of ways poetry affects us that cannot be parsed through the traditional resources of poetic theory.
Rhythm has rich but also problematic roots in still-lingering nineteenth-century notions of primitive, oral, communal, and sometimes racialized poetics. But there are reasons to understand and even embrace its seductions, including its resistance to lyrical voice and even identity. Through exploration of rhythm’s genealogies and present critical debates, the essays consistently warn against taking rhythm to be a given form offering ready-made resources for interpretation. Pressing beyond poetry handbooks’ isolated descriptions of technique or inductive declarations of what rhythm “is,” the essays ask what it means to think rhythm.
Rhythm, the contributors show, happens relative to the body, on the one hand, and to language, on the othertwo categories that are distinct from the literary, the mode through which poetics has tended to be analyzed. Beyond articulating what rhythm does to poetry, the contributors undertake a genealogical and theoretical analysis of how rhythm as a human experience has come to be articulated through poetry and poetics. The resulting work helps us better understand poetry both on its own terms and in its continuities with other experiences and other arts.
Contributors: Derek Attridge, Tom Cable, Jonathan Culler, Natalie Gerber, Ben Glaser, Virginia Jackson, Simon Jarvis, Ewan Jones, Erin Kappeler, Meredith Martin, David Nowell Smith, Yopie Prins, Haun Saussy
About the Author
Ben Glaser is Assistant Professor of English at Yale University.
Jonathan Culler (Edited By)
Jonathan Culler is Class of 1916 Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Cornell University and the author of numerous books on literary theory, including Structuralist Poetics, On Deconstruction, and Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction. His most recent book is Theory of the Lyric (Harvard, 2015).
Table of Contents
Ben Glaser, 1
Jonathan Culler, 21
What Is Called Rhythm?
David Nowell Smith, 40
Sordello’s Pristine Pulpiness
Simon Jarvis, 60
Body, Throng, Race
The Cadence of Consent: Francis Barton Gummere, Lyric Rhythm, and White Poetics
Virginia Jackson, 87
Contagious Rhythm: Verse as a Technique of the Body
Haun Saussy, 106
Constructing Walt Whitman: Literary History and Histories of Rhythm
Erin Kappeler, 128
Beat and Count
The Rhythms of the English Dolnik
Derek Attridge, 153
How to Find Rhythm on a Piece of Paper
Thomas Cable, 174
Meredith Martin, 197
Fictions of Rhythm
Beyond Meaning: Differing Fates of Some Modernist Poets’ Investments of Belief in Sounds
Natalie Gerber, 223
Sapphic Stanzas: How Can We Read the Rhythm?
Yopie Prins 247
Rhythm and Affect in “Christabel”
Ewan Jones, 274
List of Contributors 299