By Richard Bradford
This introductory ebook takes the reader via literary background from the Renaissance to Postmodernism, and considers person texts as paradigms that may either replicate and unsettle their broader linguistic and cultural contexts. Richard Bradford offers particular readings of person texts which emphasize their relation to literary historical past and broader socio-cultural contexts, and which bear in mind advancements in structuralism and postmodernism. Texts comprise poems through Donne, Herbert, Marvell, Milton, Pope, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Blake, Keats, Hopkins, Browning, Pound, Eliot, Carlos Williams, Auden, Larkin and Geoffrey Hill.
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It is the relation between these, more specifically the conflict between human instinct and the demands of circumstance and the overarching transcendent concepts of order, law and justice, that constitute the plot of Measure for Measure. And the characters whose function and identity are shaped by their use of verse before prose are those whose social and judicial positions oblige them to effectively control the balance between these two types of existential condition. Shakespeare seems to claim that culture, high art, writing, the imaginative engagement with and command of the discourse correspond with power, privilege and responsibility.
So, we face a paradox. Poetry, being language, will communicate meaning by employing the enabling conventions of the syntactic deep structure, but its total meaning cannot be accounted for through the techniques of analysis used to describe the relation between structure and text in all non-poetic uses of language. The paradox lies in the fact that, according to linguists such as Chomsky, we communicate with one another through linguistic competence, a shared, perhaps intuitive, awareness of how sentences work.
What effect do such changes have upon our perceptions of the speaker? What does this splitting of discourse tell us about contemporary attitudes to the functional as well as the formal distinction between poetic and non poetic language? We can offer a number of fairly straightforward propositions. The distinction between blank verse and prose mirrors the distinction between the social patterns and the behavioural patterns of the characters. Isabella, Angelo, Claudio and the Duke communicate with one another and conduct their own introspective discourses mainly, though not entirely, in blank verse.
A Linguistic History of English Poetry (Interface) by Richard Bradford