[Milton-L] Scansion of line X

J. Michael Gillum mgillum at ret.unca.edu
Tue Sep 17 16:48:44 EDT 2013


The poets who created the accentual-syllabic metric system had no
conceptual grasp of it at all. Later, people constructed various false
theories about it which still contribute to the confusion. In the absence
of a usable theory, poets nevertheless wrote metrical verse and readers
decoded the patterns. This is possible because we know the meters as
rhythmical blanks regardless of how we name the constituent entities.

The lack of a common theory and terminology becomes a problem only when we
try to communicate to others things we have noticed about metrical lines
and passages. But it is a scandal to the profession that we have such a
hard time talking to each other about metrics.

Consider linguistics. Language is a similar system in that we deploy it
correctly through tacit rather than explicit knowledge of how it works, but
it is vastly more complex than the system of meter. Yet there is a viable
science of language whose practitioners understand what each other are
saying, even when they disagree.

However, meter is not so simple a thing either. The linguists who thought
they could easily clarify it have failed.


On Tue, Sep 17, 2013 at 4:11 PM, Richard A. Strier <rastrier at uchicago.edu>wrote:

>  It's a wonderful fact -- one with which I have had long and rich
> experience -- that scansion, which one might think would be the most cut
> and dried part of literary/poetic analysis always turns out to be
> interestingly contentious, theoretical, and personal.  If one has a taste
> for the topic -- which I do, and Professor Fleming may not -- the
> contention and discussion is part of the fun of the whole thing.  Who
> would've thought?  I can hardly wait to discuss another line!
>
>  RS
> *
> *
> *From:* milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [
> milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of Gregory Machacek [
> Gregory.Machacek at marist.edu]
>   *Sent:* Tuesday, September 17, 2013 1:43 PM
>
> *To:* John Milton Discussion List
> *Subject:* [Milton-L] Scansion of line X
>
>   Darn!  The subject line made me think we were moving on to line 10.
>
>  Part of what elicits JD Fleming's feeling is that every blessed time we
> have one of these discussions about a particular case we negotiate afresh
> the meaning of "every blessed term" (stress/accent/beat; rhythm/meter).
>  Efforts to define and illustrate every blessed term carefully, precisely
> and wisely are book-length and multiple, and people on this list all have
> their favorites.  Attridge lurks behind a lot of the commentary.  But any
> attempt to collegially agree on some one of the existing prosodies would, I
> suspect: 1) reproduce all of the renegotiation we do each time and 2) end
> in collegial resolutions to agree to disagree, rather than in collegial
> agreement.
>
>  But for all of that, I find these discussions profitable.
>
> Greg Machacek
> Professor of English
> Marist College
>
>
> -----milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu wrote: -----
> To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
> From: JCarl Bellinger
> Sent by: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
> Date: 09/17/2013 01:54PM
> Subject: [Milton-L] Scansion of line X
>
> In order to escape the  complaint implicit in Professor Fleming's cordial
> "Is there any validity to my feeling, which comes up whenever a scansion
> thread becomes a web..." in order as I say to escape this nicely posed
> complaint mustn't EVERY blessed term essential to this endemically
> intractable subject be carefully, precisely, wisely, defined &
> illustrated, AND
> collegially agreed, before any serious discussion can be profitably
> undertaken?
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