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Before Prosody: Early English Poetics in Practice and Theory

The purpose of the essay is to offer medieval English poetry as a case in point for historical poetics, bringing a different literary archive to bear on the methodological debate. Medieval English poets practiced literary form at a time when vernacular poetics had not yet become an academic subject or a sustained cultural discourse. Through three case studies from the alliterative tradition, this essay seeks to demonstrate what is distinctive about the cultural work of early English poetics.

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Global Englishes, Rhyme, and Rap: A Meditation Upon Shifts in Rhythm

This essay considers how the Somali-born hip-hop artist K’naan occasionally uses rhymes that embody a slight but perceptually noticeable shift in the rhythms of global Englishes. Our verse prosody is being reshaped by the rhythmic contours of speakers who bring the prosody of their first language to bear upon their rhythmicization of English. This is no matter of local or virtuosic performance but a structural shift in the texture of our language.

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Metricalness and Rhythmicalness: What Our Ear Tells Our Mind

Tsur suggests that a reader’s rhythmical performance of complex lines (i.e., lines in which the linguistic pattern and the versification pattern diverge) may be regarded as a problem-solving activity that makes the conflicting patterns perceptible.

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"Imperfectly Civilized": Ballads, Nations, and Histories of Form

Thomas Babington Macaulay’s Lays of Ancient Rome—his 1842 collection of poems written as if they were lost Roman ballads—are all but absent in our current understanding of the Victorian era. This essay explores what is at stake in such a critical erasure and shows why and how these erasures have shaped our contemporary understanding of poetic form.

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Verse Scored Free: Scansion, Recording, Notation

The epistemological problems of the score, notably concerning the relation between the body that produces the sound, and the body that notates the sound, is bound up with an even broader epistemological problem, namely—how do we conceive of linguistic sound as a whole? 

My Life Withstood a Yellow Rose
My relationship to poetry took a sharp turn for the worse the day I learned that Emily Dickinson's poetry could be recited to the tune of the "Yellow Rose of Texas."  (This observation is far from original, and there are scores of other tunes that work as well for the Dickinsonian canon for reasons that are well explained elsewhere, but the moment in which this unfortunate coupling occurred to me was nonetheless a shock to my system.)