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Critical RhythmThe Poetics of a Literary Life Form$
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Ben Glaser and Jonathan Culler

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780823282043

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823282043.001.0001

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Beyond Meaning: Differing Fates of Some Modernist Poets’ Investments of Belief in Sounds

Beyond Meaning: Differing Fates of Some Modernist Poets’ Investments of Belief in Sounds

Chapter:
(p.223) Beyond Meaning: Differing Fates of Some Modernist Poets’ Investments of Belief in Sounds
Source:
Critical Rhythm
Author(s):

Natalie Gerber

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823282043.003.0011

Modernist American poets Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens, and William Carlos Williams insisted on the values of linguistic sound beyond the semantic. Stevens focused on the modulations of the sounds and lexical stresses of individual words within the meter. Frost and Williams focused on the less predictable intonational contours of phrases and sentences (although for Frost, the intonational contours play with and against the metrical pattern, whereas for Williams, lines tend to align with intonational phrases, turning prosodic speech tunes into a prosodic verse measure). Drawing on recent cognitive studies that pertain to the processing of speech sound and birdsong, this article suggests a need to revise critical assessments of the poets’ investments of belief in sound; it also considers why, given this research, Frost’s theory of sentence sounds has, perhaps unfairly, fared a worse critical reception.

Keywords:   cognitive literary studies, free verse, Robert Frost, iambic meter, intonation, Modernism, prosody, Wallace Stevens, versification, William Carlos Williams

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