A Linguistic History of English Poetry

By Richard Bradford | Go to book overview

Introduction

How to Use the Study

The principal problem in any attempt to find a fruitful and cooperative pattern of contacts between linguistics and literary criticism is depressingly simple: where do you begin? Should the study of syntax structure precondition your encounters with sentences in a poem? If so how do you classify and respond to deviations from normal structure? Perhaps these should not be regarded as deviations; perhaps poetry should be categorised as an autonomous linguistic system, maybe even an independent sign system, with its own rules and conventions.

Two assumptions will govern the structure and methodology of this study: firstly, poetry is different from other linguistic discourses and non-linguistic sign systems. Its difference is not, as many current cultural theorists claim, a product of the reader's a priori cultural, aesthetic and ideological expectations; its uniqueness is an intrinsic feature of its structure. The key to our understanding of poetic difference is the 'double pattern'-in its simplest form the relation between the line and syntax-and this will be more fully explained in Chapter 1. Secondly, distinctions between the form, the objectives and the meaning of individual poems can best be understood in terms of the different historical and generic categories that constitute the canon of post-sixteenth-century literature, and Chapters 2-6 will follow this traditional format.

The study is intended to be accessible enough for those whose familiarity with the terms and methodology of linguistics is slight and uncertain, and its format will provide the student with a means of contextualising each poem in terms of the major historical and aesthetic categories of literary studies-metaphysical, Romantic, modernist and so on. But it is not offered as a mechanical 'reader's guide' to conventional perceptions of poetry and interpretation. As

-xiii-

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A Linguistic History of English Poetry
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Series Editor's Introduction to the Interface Series viii
  • Acknowledgements xii
  • Introduction xiii
  • 1 - Theory 1
  • 2 - Shakespeare and the Metaphysicals 31
  • 3 - The Restoration and the Eighteenth Century 66
  • 4 - Romanticism 97
  • 5 - Victorian Poetry 133
  • 6 - Modernism and Criticism 154
  • Appendix 200
  • Glossary 204
  • Bibliography 216
  • Index 222
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