By Richard Bradford

This introductory e-book takes the reader via literary heritage from the Renaissance to Postmodernism, and considers person texts as paradigms that can either replicate and unsettle their broader linguistic and cultural contexts. Richard Bradford presents exact readings of person texts which emphasize their relation to literary background and broader socio-cultural contexts, and which bear in mind advancements in structuralism and postmodernism. Texts contain poems via Donne, Herbert, Marvell, Milton, Pope, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Blake, Keats, Hopkins, Browning, Pound, Eliot, Carlos Williams, Auden, Larkin and Geoffrey Hill.

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Example text

In this passage the temporal and spatial immediacy of death is transformed into a manic sequence of shifts between the empirical and the spiritual, the sensual and the intellectual—‘rot’, ‘sensible’, ‘clod’, ‘spirit’, ‘floods’, ‘imprisoned’, ‘pendent world’, ‘incertain thoughts’. Claudio has projected himself, via the selective, paradigmatic axis, into a purely linguistic realm where what in the real, contingent world would remain separate concepts are suddenly thrust together. As Jakobson says: ‘the poetic function projects the principle of equivalence from the axis of selection into the axis of combination’.

There are different types and forms of prose style, but its principal distinction from verse is that it adheres to a single pattern of grammatical rules and conventions. Blank verse supplements these with a secondary pattern of iambic decasyllabic units. Before Milton’s Paradise Lost, blank verse was regarded as a dramatic form which, because it lacked rhyme, did not fully qualify for use in non-dramatic verse. However, it offered a sufficient foregrounding of the poetic function to make the reader aware of a distinction between the poetic and the non-poetic.

Free verse must be regarded as the final episode in a long running conflict between poets and the prescribed langue of poetic conventions. Most of the early free versifiers offered a challenge both to themselves and their readers by presenting texts which did not correspond with the then accepted definition of poetry. But less than a century later the works of Pound, Williams and Eliot rest easily in the same anthologies and on the same ‘Poetry’ book-shelves as the works of Pope and Wordsworth.

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