submitted by Max Cavitch (University of Pennsylvania) on Sun, 2010-10-24 10:00
One of the most important historical and conceptual frames for this special issue is the frame provided by the English language itself—from its mid-18th-century standardization to the ongoing, exponential increase in the number of its speakers throughout the Hobsbawmian long 19th century and beyond. Thus, the question of philology—and especially, for present purposes, the question of the relation of philology and prosody. Andrew Elfenbein begins to broach this question in his book Romanticism and the Rise of English (2009), concerned chiefly with Romantic writers’ confrontation with “fully standardized English” (7). In disciplinary terms, Elfenbein asserts, “philology’s autonomy threatens literary criticism” (4), and his book essays a defusing of that threat by demonstrating that the distinctive histories these disciplines trace can, in fact, be excitingly told in relation to one another. Most relevant for present purposes is Elfenbein’s chapter on “Sounding Meaning,” which begins to restore to view some of the period’s institutional and performative encounters between elocution and prosody.
Building on Elfenbein’s work, how could we further improve the “fit” between philology and historical poetics? What is the fate of prosody in the long 19th century, specifically in relation to the steep escalation of the stakes of linguistic determination? When and how does meter trump elocution and vice versa?—and in answering this question, what are the implications for the ways in which English poetry is both recited and written around the world, including as elements of basic language instruction? How do the elocutionists’ rules and diacritical and other typographical markings comport and compare with those of the prosodists?—and how do we make clear that this sort of question, in particular, is far less dusty than it seems?