A Linguistic History of English Poetry

By Richard Bradford | Go to book overview

Appendix

Using the double pattern and the sliding scale as an interpretive framework for poems

The double pattern and the sliding scale (see Chapter 1 and Glossary) are terms I have coined to provide a practical focus for the vast and disparate methodologies of linguistics and literary criticism. The following is a brief guide, with examples, to how these concepts can be used in the interpretation of poems. It is effectively a summary of the methods used in the book.

(i) Begin by distinguishing the two elements of the poem's double pattern. The conventional element is the easiest to identify and name (blank verse, free verse, the ode, the couplet, etc.). The cognitive element (syntactic structure, coherence and deviation) should be dealt with in relation to this.

(ii) Consider whether, in the process of understanding (in formal terms naturalising) the poem, the conventional or the cognitive element of the text is its most prominent or problematic feature. For example, in Dylan Thomas's 'When Like a Running Grave' the patterns of metre and rhyme (conventional) are far more regular and prominent than their syntactic or referential counterparts (cognitive), while in Shakespeare's blank verse the cognitive element (syntax and speech pattern) seems to dominate convention (blank verse).

(iii) Examine how the interactions between the two elements of the double pattern affect our broader understanding of the intention of the poet, and our classification of the poem within a particular type or genre. Does the tension between cognitive and conventional elements make it more or less difficult to reconcile our experience of the text with the imagined circumstances of the speech act? In short, is the text easy or difficult to understand? Can we identify a predictable causal relation between the transparent or refractory

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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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