Eras & Modes in English Poetry

Eras & Modes in English Poetry

Eras & Modes in English Poetry

Eras & Modes in English Poetry

Excerpt

The idea of temporal change is important in literary history. We have a sense that one work leads to another, that one artist influences another, that an author matures, that we can discern stages in development from era to era. We have a sense of a whole and ever-changing pattern of artistic progression, not always to better, but always to remarkably different, sorts of work. We name the stages of change for leading literary or political figures, as if there were some natural representation. Or we name the stages for styles, as if we discerned clearly that one style in literature lasted just so long and then gave way to another.

The idea of style is important too. We have a sense that despite its complexities the manner in which thought and attitude are given artistic form is somehow describable and identifiable, by substance, tone, syntax, and the shapes of genres. The style is taken to be not only the man but also the group, as if epoch and group and even individual did not stir with conflicting, increasing, and subsiding forces of interest and manner.

It seems to me possible that by specifying certain characteristics within style and era and by tracing their changes within individual and group usage, we may learn more definitely what are the interrelationships of time and manner and what are the qualities and tempos of artistic change. Basic to both the general speech of an era and its literary constructions is the language of the era, already socially structured and . . .

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