That Promiscuity, That Riffing
submitted by Virginia Jackson (Tufts University) on Thu, 2010-10-21 11:55

Thanks, Max, for starting this conversation!  One thing that I see emerging from the recent wave of historical prosody studies is the difference between modern notions of scansion (Attridge, et al) and eighteenth- and nineteenth-century forms of generic and prosodic recognition.  The more I read, the more I think that large generic patterns were what common readers saw, but by "common" I don't mean unsophisticated--in fact, the common reader recognized so many generic patterns in so many combinations that prosodists by the mid-nineteenth century began trying to straighten out the promiscuity of verse cultures.  But it's that promiscuity--that riffing--that made prosody such a generative set of discourses for post-colonial, indigenous, african-american, caribbean, francophone, diasporic, hemispheric poets.......So how do we as contemporary critics develop a vocabulary for those historical forms of recognition?  That seems to me the really interesting and really hard question at the moment.......