the importance of studying the poetry book as an interpretive object, help
develop a theory of such study, and provide a generous set of models for a
related practical criticism. For it is only by better understanding the book
as place that we will ever fully appreciate the appropriate place of the book
in the editing, reading, and teaching of poetry.
These comments by
Thibaudet are cited by Jonathan Culler in Structuralist Poetics:
Structuralism, Linguistics, and the Study of Literature ( Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University
Press, 1975), p. 131.
Common in seventeenth-century usage but now rare, "contexture" denotes an "interwoven structure," according to the Oxford English Dictionary, which also lists a specifically literary application: "the construction or composition of a writing as consisting
of connected and coherent members." See also Neil Fraistat, The Poem and the Book:
Interpreting Collections of Romantic Poetry (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina
Press, 1985), p. 4. Parts of this introductory essay have already appeared in chapter 1 of The Poem and the Book.
See, for instance, the essays below by Vincent Carretta and Jerome J. McGann.
Although my own definition of contexture is expressed in terms of forms arranged
by the author, the concerns of contextural poetics might be widened fruitfully to include miscellanies, anthologies, and other types of collections characterized by corporate authorship or editorial arrangement. A contextural critic might study, for example,
an editor such as George Bannatyne, who, working no doubt with the Greek Anthology
and Meleager Garland as models, was probably the first in Britain to organize an anthology generically and one of the first to attempt to unify an anthology through careful
arrangement. From such studies, we might go on to develop a set of distinctions between characteristic authorial and editorial strategies for organizing collections. For an
interesting discussion of corporate authorship in Japanese collections, see Earl Miner's
essay below. For the importance of genre as a means of organization in Donne's canon,
see John Shawcross's essay below.
The Alexandrians were certainly not the first Western poets to arrange groups of
their own poems, however. Although our evidence is sketchy, Sappho, Mimnermos,
and Theognis--among others--may all have done so before the rise of the poetry book
in Alexandria. See, for example, H. J. Rose, A Handbook of Greek Literature: From Homer
to the Age of Lucian, 4th ed. rev. ( London: Methuen, 1954), pp. 83, 85-88, 97, and
John Van Sickle, "The Book-Roll and Some Conventions of the Poetic Book," Arethusa 13 ( 1980): 6. I have found Van Sickle's entire discussion of the book-roll enlightening, pp. 5-42. For additional observations on the effect of the book-roll on the
reading process, see William S. Anderson's essay below.
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Book title: Poems in Their Place:The Intertextuality and Order of Poetic Collections.
Contributors: Neil Fraistat - Editor.
Publisher: University of North Carolina Press.
Place of publication: Chapel Hill, NC.
Publication year: 1986.
Page number: 14.
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