Front cover image for The ghost of meter : culture and prosody in American free verse

The ghost of meter : culture and prosody in American free verse

The Ghost of Meter: Culture and Prosody in American Free Verse provides a new strategy for interpreting the ways in which metrical patterns contribute to the meaning of poems. Annie Finch puts forth the theory of "the metrical code," a way of tracing the changing cultural connotations of metered verse, especially iambic pentameter. By applying the code to specific poems, the author is able to analyze a writer's relation to literary history and to trace the evolution of modern and contemporary poetries from the forms that preceded them. The introduction offers a thorough survey of ideas about meter and meaning from the ancient Greeks to the present, tracing the changing role of meter in poetic theory. Subsequent chapters treat the poetry of Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Stephen Crane, and T.S. Eliot, who wrote during a crucial period in American poetry, the transition from nineteenth- to twentieth-century poetics. A final chapter illustrates developments in the metrical code during the contemporary period, with readings of poems by Audre Lorde, Anne Sexton, and Charles Wright. The author's theory is informed by the work of Roland Barthes, the Russian Formalists, and feminist literary theory. Her account of nineteenth- and twentieth-century poetics relies on extensive primary research in prosodic theory and analyzes many of these texts for the first time. Annie Finch is Assistant Professor of Creative Writing and Prosody, University of Northern Iowa
Print Book, English, ©1993
University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, ©1993