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