“The Co-Presence of Something Regular”: Wordsworth’s Aesthetics of Prosody

in Aesthetic Experience and Somaesthetics
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Abstract:

This essay examines the Romantic debate about prosody between William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge as the starting-point for much subsequent prosodic theory. I argue that the perceived differences between the accounts of Wordsworth and Coleridge obscure their basic agreement on the importance of meter’s independence from the content of poems and on the strong connection between meter and the body of the reader. Wordsworth in particular explores the implications of this sense of meter, and his treatment of meter, both explicitly in the Preface to Lyrical Ballads and implicitly in the imagery of his poems, suggests a reorientation of modern theories. Wordsworth asks us to think of meter not as a poet or poem’s representation but as the point at which readers’ bodies enter the text and can be heard in it.

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