The Science of Prosody, Circa 1677

Paul Fussell argued that “the history of prosody is . . . inseparable from the history of ideas.” Scholarship examining this relationship has emphasized how science helps explain prosody, but this direction of influence isn’t the only possibility. Weiss Smith aims to tell a story about a moment when the lines of influence reversed—a story about the “science of prosody,” where the of signifies not about or behind but characterized by. She wants to tell a story, that is, about an attempt to use poetry as an instrument of cutting-edge science.

"Ode on the Death of a Favorite Cat Drowned in a Tub of Goldfishes": "You will excuse me if I do not begin to cry."
In my last post, I discussed the unfortunate marriage of Emily Dickinson's poems to "The Yellow Rose of Texas."  This post and its successor turn to an equally unlikely pairing of poem and music that produced an extraordinarily serendipitous outcome, one that ought to lead to a recording contract for one of my students.  Before I get there, I'd like to provide a little background.