Such Rare Citings: The Prose Poem in English Literature

By N. Santilli | Go to book overview

Introduction

FOR JONATHAN MONROE, THE PROSE POEM IS A DIMINUTIVE POLITICAL champion that restores lost and oppressed voices.1 In its one hundred and fifty year existence, the genre has never advanced beyond its minor classification and so by its own history it reenacts the muted voice of those it champions. The prose poem designates the literary space of battle, which it announces by its oxymoronic name. Fittingly, for a genre dedicated to individualism, this title corresponds to the single prose piece rather than to the collection within which it operates (for which the term becomes "prose poetry").

Implicit as it is in Monroe's discussion of restored voices, the concept of a genre that is actually founded on subversion is compelling and appears at varying degrees in most accounts, including mine. Margueritte Murphy, in A Tradition of Subversion, undertakes a basic reading in which a network of different discourses (Bakhtin's dialogism) appropriates a recognizable genre and subverts it in each text.2 The prose poem, it is suggested, exposes the extent to which our understanding of language is driven by our recognition of types of discourse. The problem with this approach is that it presupposes a stability of genres: an unevolving standardization of form against which the prose poem can always be recognized as other. Stamos Metzidakis shares the aestheticism of Murphy's approach but offers a closer look at the dynamics of subversion. He deconstructs the subversive act into "good" and "bad" repetition: that which may engender future repetitions and that which is already present. The prose poem participates in both these types by, on one hand, establishing a model that can be repeated, but on the other, revealing the already written (which exposes the former as an ideal). This latter, or "bad" repetition prevents the text from fully unifying its separate parts, meaning that the prose poem may be read semiotically but not

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Such Rare Citings: The Prose Poem in English Literature
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 7
  • Preface 9
  • Acknowledgments 11
  • Introduction 13
  • Abbreviations 27
  • 1: The Prose Poem and the Romantic Fragment 31
  • 2: De Quincey and Baudelaire 71
  • 3: Contexts I 98
  • 4: Contexts II: Mercian Hymns 118
  • 5: Parallelism 137
  • 6: Beckett's Late Prose 161
  • 7: The Prose Poem and the City 181
  • Notes 207
  • Works Cited 259
  • Index 277
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