10 oct. 2010

Reading Fabb and Halle, Meter in Poetry: A New Theory (Cambridge 2008). I vowed I would understand each page before I went on to the next one.

Obviously, tratándose de Morris Halle, it's a variation on generative metrics and a grid theory. The grids are composed of asterisks for syllables and parentheses facing either way for groupings of syllables. If the parentheses face one way, ))))) it's what you would call a rising rhythm, like iambs and anapests. If they face the other way, (((((( then it's a falling rhythms like dactyls or trochees. So you have (***(**( for dactyls, for example. It's basically a foot-based system then, as well as a hierarchical grid. It would have been helpful if they explained the relation between their system and more traditional metrics rather than making me figure it out.

I've long been interested in generative metrics so it's exciting to see whether or not this new theory offers just a new notation or some actually new insight. The authors are not always that good at explaining exactly why their approach is needed or superior, what it gives that other systems did not. One novelty is that it promises to be applicable to the meter of many languages. It's not just a theory of English meter, but a system that can be applied to any metrical system. That's the Chomskyan universalism in their approach.

That's as far as I've gotten. I really checked the book out to get Carlos Piera's take on Spanish meter (he contributes a chapter on Southern Romance prosody, Spanish, Italian, etc...) but since he uses Fabb and Halle's system I have to understand that first, beginning at the beginning.

The central mystery is why and how verse exists. In other words, what is the relation between linguistic prosody and literary prosody. How much of meter is derived directly and without problems from the linguistic prosody of the language in question.

Stay tuned.

3 comentarios:

Sarang dijo...

I'm agnostic about whether "falling rhythms" really exist in English. (I.e., whether Xx/Xx/Xx is not more sensibly scanned as X/xX/xX/x.) Will stay tuned, though I'm personally less interested in the central mystery than in peripheral puzzles, like why second-foot substitutions are so disruptive in pentameter, or why unrhymed iambic verse only sounds natural when there's an odd number of feet per line.

Jordan dijo...

This area of study feels like the calculus before Leibniz and Newton. There is a general understanding that it would be good to measure the area under the curve, but not much agreement otherwise... I enjoy the delusion that this is connected with poetry's remarkable flexibility, but it's just wrong.

Jonathan dijo...

It marks out a grid that is exactly what poetry's flexibility is not. In that sense, it's useful.