Poems in Their Place: The Intertextuality and Order of Poetic Collections

By Neil Fraistat | Go to book overview

Neil Fraistat


Introduction The Place of the Book and the Book as Place

It is a simple fact of our reading experience that poems take place, in the words of Albert Thibaudet, "as a function of the Book." That is to say that the book--with all of its informing contexts--is the meeting ground for poet and reader, the "situation" in which its constituent texts occur. As such, the book is constantly conditioning the reader's responses, activating various sets of what semioticians call "interpretive codes." And yet, as Thibaudet shrewdly goes on to observe, "there are few things to which a man of books gives less thought than the Book." 1 The essays of this collection are designed specifically to foster such thought--and to make clear that its implications extend from the fields of textual scholarship and literary history to those of hermeneutics and literary theory.

To read poems in their place, then, is to make the poetry book itself--as both idea and material fact--an object of interpretation. A fundamental assumption of such an approach is that the decisions poets make about the presentation of their works play a meaningful role in the poetic process and, hence, ought to figure in the reading process. Studied within the context of their original volumes, poems reveal a fuller textuality, which is to say, an intertextuality.

Perhaps no single word adequately conveys the special qualities of the poetic collection as an organized book: the contextuality provided for each poem by the larger frame within which it is placed, the intertextuality among poems so placed, and the resultant texture of resonance and meanings. I have recently proposed, however, that the word "contexture" be used for such a purpose because of its utility in suggesting all three of these qualities without being restricted to any one. 2 A contexture might thus be seen as the "poem" that is the book itself. By raising such questions as the significance of selection and arrangement within particular books, we are led not only to consider the integrity of these larger "poems" but also to pose new questions about poets' notions of order within their canons and the types of connections they make among their individual poems.

-3-

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Poems in Their Place: The Intertextuality and Order of Poetic Collections
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction the Place of the Book and the Book as Place 3
  • Notes 14
  • Some Issues for Study of Integrated Collections 18
  • Notes 40
  • The Theory and Practice of Poetic Arrangement from Vergil to Ovid 44
  • Notes 63
  • Sequences, Systems, Models Sidney and the Secularization of Sonnets 66
  • Notes 91
  • Jonson, Marvell, and Miscellaneity? 95
  • Notes 115
  • The Arrangement and Order of John Donne's Poems 119
  • Appendix A: Epigrams 150
  • Appendix B: Love Elegies 150
  • Appendix C: Epicedes and Obsequies 153
  • Appendix D: Divine Poems 154
  • Appendix E: Verse Letters 155
  • "Strange Text!" "Paradise Regain'D . . . to Which is Added Samson Agonistes" 164
  • Notes 191
  • "Images Reflect from Art to Art" Alexander Pope's Collected Works of 1717 195
  • Notes 231
  • Multum in Pairvo Wordsworth's Poems, in Two Volumes of 1807 234
  • Notes 251
  • The Book of Byron and the Book of a World 254
  • Notes 271
  • The Arrangement of Browning's Dramatic Lyrics (1842) 273
  • Notes 286
  • Whitman's Leaves and the American "Lyric-Epic" 289
  • Notes 306
  • Marjorie Perloff the Two Ariels the (re)making of the Sylvia Plath Canon 308
  • Notes 331
  • Index 335
  • Notes on the Contributors 343
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