Hey guys!

So I’ve been transitioning to using Markdown instead of Word’s Notebook Layout View to take my class notes.

So, here’s some of my html-coded notes from my Eighteenth-Century Lit class this morning, transcribed from Dr. Paku’s (written) explanation of how to talk about rhythm in poetry.


Terminology for discussing rhythm

  • From Abrahms:

    • Prosody: the systematic study of versification in poetry
    • Versification: the principles and practice of meter, rhyme, and stanza forms (and sometimes of sound patterning like alliteration or onomatopoeia)
    • Meter: the recurrence, in regular units (like across lines), of a prominent feature in the speech sounds of a language: more commonly, a recurrent pattern of stresses on a recurrent number of syllables, a.ka. “accentual-syllabic meter” or “stress and syllable.”

      • most often it is useful to talk about meter at the line level

      • Stresses: a.k.a. “accents”–the more forcefully uttered and hence louder syllables. When we recognize a pattern to the beat of the stresses, we have a rhythm.

      • We typically distinguish only strong (/) and weak (x) stresses, though those terms are relative and can be decided in combination with surrounding words, not absolute values (for example prepositions and pronouns and articles).

        • note that this is already a binary
      • A recognizable combination of stressed and unstressed syllables gives us a foot, which is the measure we use to make up the metric unit of a line.

      • We can describe that foot, and then describe how often the foot occurs. These two measures give us the names we use to describe meter or rhythm.
      • The most common feet and the most common number of feet per line:

        The iamb, iambic x /
        The trochee, trochaic / x
        The spondee, spondaic / /
        The pyrrhic, pyrrhic x x
        (anapest x x / and dactyl / x x)

        tetrameter 4
        pentameter 5
        hexameter 6

      • When you scan a passage, you go through line by line analyzing the meter. A scansion is the end result of scanning a passage.

      • But: scansion is not a science. When you describe rhythm, you typically also take into account 1) word rhythm, 2) grammatical function, 3) rhetorical accent (emphasis), 4) intonation/dynamics, 5) length of syllables, 6) caesura, 7) syntax and semantics (phrasal patterns), 8) expressive performance.
        • Scansion is an interpretive TOOL, not a rule.