Jakobson Revisited

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Richard D. Cureton
English Department
University of Michigan
Jakobson Revisited: Poetics, Subjectivity, and Temporality
1 Introduction
Over the last 25 years, the political fate of stylistics has depended crucially on responses to the
work of Roman Jakobson. Because of the scope and quality of his writing across the many disciplines
associated with both language and literature, Jakobson has been used as a litmus test for the more general
assertion that linguistics and literary study are closely related enterprises--as Jakobson puts it in his
landmark essay "Linguistics and Poetics" at the 1958 Indiana Conference on Style--that "a linguist deaf to
the poetic function of language and a literary scholar indifferent to linguistic problems and unconversant
with linguistic methods are equally flagrant anachronisms" (Jakobson 1987: 94). In particular, from the 60's
through the 80's, certain widely read and publicized critiques of Jakobson work (e.g., Riffaterre 1966,
Culler 1975, Fish 1980, and Attridge 1987) have been regarded as definitive refutations of stylistics, too. In
recent years, some of the weaknesses and misunderstandings in these critiques have been effectively
exposed and countered (e.g., Bradford 1994, Aviram 1994, Cureton 1996b, 1997a, 1997b, 1997c, 1997d).
However, partially for political reasons, partially because of their own limitations, these defenses of
Jakobson's claims have attracted little attention and are only slightly known. Many questions and concerns
about Jakobson's work--both the work itself and its relation to stylistics more generally--deserve further
consideration.
2 Jakobson's Stylistic Claims: Issues and Clarifications
2.1 Poetry vs. Drama / Prose Fiction / Song
The first thing to clarify about Jakobson's stylistic claims is that, by and large, they are claims
about poetry, not the other literary genres--drama, prose fiction, and song. Jakobson says many things about
literature in general and therefore makes many comments on the other literary genres; but his central
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concern, both in theory and analysis, is with poetry. This means that Jakobson's stylistic assumptions and
methods should not be taken as a general stylistic theory, a general theory of the relation between language
and literature. For the most part, there is no such thing as "Jakobsonian stylistics." There is only
"Jakobonian poetics," with poetics construed in the narrow sense of "theory of poetry," not in the broad
sense of "theory of literature."
Since the middle of the twentieth century, the widespread attempt to found a general theory of
literature (i.e., poetics in the broad sense) has often misunderstood Jakobson on this point (e.g., Van Rees
1992). Jakobson is not claiming that, to be literary, the language of a text must include certain unusual
selections and arrangements of linguistic form. Jakobson only claims that accomplished poetry must texture
its language in this way. In his recent defense of Jakobson, Bradford (1994: 35) makes this point clearly
and forcefully:
Literary linguists have given roughly equal attention
to prose fiction and to poetry, but the latter has a prior
claim to the methodologies and perspectives offered by
modern linguistics because, as Jakobson argues, the
structural properties of poetic language are also, to a large
extent, its subject.
Although all of the literary genres use aspects of the other genres, each of the literary genres uses
language distinctly. Therefore, to be useful and valid, stylistic claims and methods must shift with the
literary genre being considered. In general, the most important uses of language in drama are
sociolinguistic and pragmatic (speech acts, indirect speech acts, conversational routines, register, dialect,
idiolect, etc.). The most important uses of language in prose fiction are semantic and rhetorical (tropes,
schemes, the functions of syntactic and prosodic form, etc.). And the most important uses of language in
song are paralinguistic (rhythmic, physical, gestural, etc.). The aesthetic center of drama is not centrally
linguistic but contextual/communicational. The aesthetic center of prose fiction is not centrally linguistic
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but conceptual/referential. And the aesthetic center of song is not centrally linguistic but
paralinguistic/physical.
In accomplished poetry, however, something entirely different happens with language--and this is
what Jakobson is centrally interested in. In our best poetry, linguistic form itself is thematized and therefore
language itself becomes the aesthetic center of the work. Paradigmatic choices (e,g, linguistic categories,
slots, relations, functions, meanings, etc.) are selected, arranged, and concentrated into distinctive linguistic
textures; and these linguistic textures are the work's central artistic accomplishment. To the extent that a
poem's language does not texture itself in this way, Jakobson claims, it loses its "poeticality" and therefore
its aesthetic accomplishment. It becomes non-poetic (a "bad" poem). On this point, there is little to suggest
that Jakobson is wrong.
2.2 Evaluation vs. Interpretation
Second, in making this claim for poetry, Jakobson takes artistic evaluation seriously--judgments of
good vs. bad, art vs. non-art, etc. In general, Jakobson is not interested in bad poems, texts that are intended
as poems but do not have any significant aesthetic value. As with generic differences, Jakobson makes it
clear that all language can be tinged by "poeticality," but that only accomplished poems use this sort of
texturing as a functional "dominant." As a result, poems with little formal texturing, such as the "found"
poems used by Fish (1981, 322-37) and Culler (1975, 161-188) in their attempts to refute Jakobson's
claims, do not qualify as counterexamples. Fish and Culler demonstrate that "found" poems (and the like)
can be successfully interpreted, even though they have little formal linguistic patterning; but neither claims
that such poems are aesthetically good.
Like Fish and Culler, Jakobson is indeed interested in reader response, but only if this response
contributes to the artistic value of the poem. He is not interested in reader response more generally,
especially as it relates to (normal) poetic interpretation.As Jakobson conceives it, poems do not "say" what
normal interpretation usually construes them to be "saying," either. To Jakobson, poetic interpretation
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involves other concerns (see 2.3 below). This being the case, Attridge's (1987, 25) claim that Jakobson
interprets normally and imposes "fixed, timeless, and strictly limited meanings" on what he interprets is a
misrepresentation. For Jakobson, poeticality and normal interpretation are not the same thing. Poetically is
evaluative; normal interpretation is not. In this matter, too, there is little evidence that Jakobson is wrong.
2.3 Jakobsonian Functionalism vs. Formalism
Third, Jakobson is indeed concerned with the aesthetic effects of linguistic form; therefore, his
poetics should be distinguished from stylistic theories that are baldly formal, for example, theories that just
fingerprint a text by describing its linguistic distinctiveness. Exactly what sort of function Jakobson thinks
poetic language achieves is a difficult issue (more on this in a moment), but he emphatically does not claim
that poetic language is just a fingerprint.
As Bradford (1994, 9-73) outlines clearly, for Jakobson, poetic language tells us about linguistic
form itself, what language is rather than what it does; therefore, it can give us a deep encounter with certain
"formative elements of existence."
Jakobson's argument...is this: our experience of the formative elements
of existence--perception, consciousness and communication--is
inseparable from our encounters with language. Poetry is unique
among the varied and intermarried types of genres of linguistic
discourse because it obliges the poet and the reader to confront
the necessary but uneasy relationship between what language is
(in Jakobson's post-Saussurean terminology, the signans) and what
signatum and the referent). Poetry is about
language, and as a consequence, the poet, as much as the linguist,
the semiologist and the philosopher, is the pathbreaker in the
realms of the sign, the system and the existential condition.
language does (the
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Bradford (1994, 2)
As Bradford goes on to explain, this function of poetic language is more psychological than social;
therefore it is somewhat "bizarre" as communication. Poetic language provides knowledge of the relation
between language and life by reversing (for a moment) the relation between form and meaning so that
meaning supports form rather than vice versa. As Aviram (1994) felicitously terms this, in the
accomplished poem, meaning "tells" its linguistic form, rather than linguistic form, its meaning, as in the
other literary genres and non-literary uses of language.
The syntagmatic, combinative pole is that which anchors language
to the prelinguistic world of events and impressions, while its
paradigmatic, selective counterpart is that which effects a more
subjective and perhaps bizarre relationship between the mind of
the addresser and the code of linguistic signs.
Bradford (1994, 13)
The prose writer, or to be more accurate the prose consciousness,
receives the language-referent relation as a predetermined whole.
The poet, however, remains faithful to the concept of the linguistic
code as the initial point of contact between the self and whatever
lies beyond the self.
Bradford (1994, 21)
Poetry must be regarded not simply as the marshalling in a
particular way of given linguistic resources and conventions,
but as an outright subversion, even rejection, of the 'normal'
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practices of linguistic communication...Poetry is the only linguistic
form in which both communicating participants are granted
equal access to the complex architectonics, the formal structuration,
of the message.
Bradford (1994, 31)
Poetry is the only kind of linguistic discourse in which the encoder's
command of the signans predetermines the relation between the
signatum and the perceptual, experiential continuum of the
prelinguistic world.
Bradford (1994, 35)
We may consider reading the ideas and images of a poem as...attempts
to make sense out of the physical being of the poem--an aspect of
the poem that, itself, ...is not exactly verbal, since it is not a sign
at all in the semiotic sense, that is, not a meaningful sign for
anything.
Aviram (1994, 87)
In this matter, too, there is little evidence that Jakobson is wrong.
2.4 Jakobsonian Functionalism vs. Other Functionalisms
Fourth, while this psychological significance of linguistic form is an aesthetic effect, it is not
semantic, rhetorical, dramatic, or rhythmic. Therefore, it must be distinguished from most of our other
functional approaches to poetic language, which normally concentrate on tropes, schemes, ambiguity,
grammatical deviance, dialect, idiolect, rhythm, real-time processing, the semantics of syntax, and related
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issues (e.g., Banfield 1973, Fairley 1975, Brooke-Rose 1958, Levin 1962, Lotman 1977, Hollander 1985,
Sinclair 1972, Leech 1969, Hasan 1985, Austin 1984, Dillon 1980, Short 1996, Semino 1997, and my own
early work on poetic syntax: Cureton 1980a and its support essays, Cureton 1979, 1980b, 1981a, 1981b,
1985). In his struggle to formulate more precisely what is entailed by this psychological revelation of "what
language is," Jakobson blurs this issue by making many comments on other functions of literary language,
but for the most part, these other effects are peripheral concerns. Things like rhetoric and rhythm also
foreground linguistic form and therefore increase the self-referentiality of a text's language, but they do not
involve the psychological value of linguistic form per se. As has been repeatedly pointed out (e.g., Culler
1975, 63-65), these rhetorical and rhythmic effects can be dominant features of both bad poetry and texts
the other literary genres--prose, drama, and song. To the extent that accomplished poetry borrows the
aesthetic resources the other literary genres, as it certainly does, it draws upon these other effects; but for
Jakobson, these other effects are not the essence of accomplished verse.
Jakobson is neither a traditional formalist nor a traditional functionalist; he blends the two.
Therefore, general discussions of stylistic theory that classify him as a formalist (e.g., Taylor and Toolan
1996) misinterpret his claims. For Jakobson, the function of accomplished poetry is to reveal the
psychological organization and therefore human significance of linguistic form, what in contemporary
theory we might call the inherent subjectivity of language. Given that the lyric has always been associated
with subjectivity (e.g., Lindley 1985), this is a completely reasonable claim. In this as well, there is little
evidence that Jakobson is wrong.
2.5 Lyric Geometry and Numerical Symmetry
Fifth, Jakobson demonstrates that this linguistic subjectivity is often revealed most noticeably in
the formal similarities and contrasts that define the multiple sectioning of the accomplished poem--central
parts vs. peripheral parts, odd parts vs. even parts, initial parts vs. final parts, and so forth. In fact, Jakobson
shows that, in the best poems, these linguistic similarities and contrasts can even reach a numerical
precision--e.g., exactly five linguistic forms of one type will occur in one part of the poem and exactly five
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in another. He even shows that the same linguistic numerology can pervade the a poem's sectioning--e.g.,
groups of exactly five similar forms will define both center vs. periphery and odd vs. even; etc.
Given Jakobson's rhetorical tasks and the history of comment on lyric poetry, these claims and
demonstrations are also unexceptional, if not common. The lyric poem is obviously architectural/divisioned
and has been explicitly described as such since at least the Renaissance (e.g., "Of Proportion," the second
book of Puttenham's The Arte of Engish Poesie, published in 1589). Therefore, given this critical
commonplace and his major rhetorical task (i.e., to demonstrate how formal linguistic textures are
constituted and distributed in the lyric poem), it is entirely reasonable that Jakobson chooses to show how
these textures further the lyric's pervasive sectioning. That Jakobson discovers various sorts of numerical
symmetries in lyric language is also not surprising. Such numerical symmetry occurs throughout the arts.
especially in music, the fine art that most closely resembles lyric poetry.
Over the years, many of Jakobson's critics have pointed out weaknesses in Jakobson's
numerically-based analyses (e.g., Culler 1975)--and with some justification. In order to extend the scope
and consistency of his analyses, Jakobson often fudges on his linguistic descriptions (or at least makes as
though the language is more numerically ordered than it really is). On the other hand, even his sharpest
critics must admit that most of the numerical symmetries that Jakobson observes are unarguable, and that,
even when he bends his linguistic descriptions to suit his purposes, his analytical fudging detracts only
slightly from his larger claim: The accomplished lyric poem is indeed sectioned in multiple ways by the
ordered concentration and distribution of linguistic forms. The most respected student of lyric in our time,
Helen Vendler, has spent most of her career amassing evidence for this claim (e.g., Vendler 1969, 1980,
1983, 1984, 1988, 1995a, 1995b, 1997a, 1997b). One of our best linguists, Haj Ross, has spent the last
twenty-five years replicating Jakobson's claims and extending his results (e.g., Ross 1981, 1982, 1991,
1992, 1999). In this matter as well, there is little evidence that Jakobson is wrong.
2.6 Subliminal Effects vs. Conscious Effects
Jakobson underlines that the central effects of poetic language are subliminal/subconscious, and
this has also been considered a weakness in his claims. How can poets write accomplished poetry if they do
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not know what they are doing, and how can readers discriminate good poetry from bad if they don't know
the difference? In prose fiction and drama, we can generally say why a plot is compelling; a character,
well-developed; or a scene, effective. Why should the sources of the effects of poetry be less accessible?
While it would certainly be more convenient for critics if everything that they were interested in
was readily accessible, the claim that some of the central effects of either language or art (much less
linguistic art) can be sub-conscious is neither new, unreasonable, or even surprising. The fine art that
parallels poetry most closely is music, and no one would dispute the claim that almost all of the effects of
music are subliminal/subconscious. Becoming consciously articulate about the structure and effect of music
demands a fairly long and technical course of study, one that usually takes several years, even if pursued
full time. The structure of language is also notoriously subconscious/inaccessible, especially those aspects
that are often most central to poetry (e.g., sound, prosody, and syntax). As with the structure of music, we
can learn to be articulate about the structure of language and its effects, but this also demands a fairly long
and arduous course of study, one which also takes several years, even if pursued full time. That literary
critics often have very little explicit training in language analysis only exacerbates the difficulty. The
problem here is clear. Critics with only slight training in language analysis claim that the subconscious
effects of poetic language are a problem because they find themselves inarticulate about them, and criticize
Jakobson, perhaps the greatest linguist of the twentieth century, because he is not. This situation reminds
me of many contemporary students of poetry who claim that Shakespeare is bad poetry because they find
the historical dialect and complexity of his language hard to understand. The poetry is not the failure;
critics of the lyric need to confront Jakobson's challenge, train themselves in the perception and analysis of
language structure, and given the achievements of linguistics in the twentieth century, stop being "flagrant
anachronisms."
The subliminal effects of poetry are easily demonstrated by the simplest of exercises--the prose
paraphrase. It is just a fact: No accomplished poem survives a prose paraphrase, no matter how hidden from
consciousness the sources of its artistic accomplishment. Unlike novels or plays, accomplished poems also
resist translation into another medium (e.g., film). Seen any movies of Shakespeare's sonnets lately? Keats'
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odes? Whitman's "Song of Myself"? The aesthetic center of the poem is the psychological effect, the
subjectivity, of its language; therefore, translation to another medium deprives the poem of that center.
2.7 Poetic Description and Interpretation
The major weakness with Jakobson's poetics, certainly, is that he resists the "naturalization"
(Bradford (1994, 81) of form that is standard practice in literary criticism, in fact, in art criticism more
generally--the translation of poetic form back into "the differential sphere of non-poetic discourse that it
patently rejects."
Jakobson...maintains that while the poetic function can be documented
and analysed, it cannot, or rather it should not, be translated,
naturalized, returned to the
differential sphere of non-poetic discourse
that it patently rejects. Such a belief presents literary theorists,
of whatever designation, with a variety of problems, Most significantly
it places severe limitations on what can legitimately be said about
poems; on the one hand we should be aware that poetry draws upon
the same raw material as all other kinds of linguistic discourse; on the
other it deploys this material in such a way as to render its signifying
function just as immune from comprehensive, normative translation
as the statue or the picture. In short, we can talk about the structural
means by which poems create their effects, but these effects are
enclosed within a private, intuitive interaction between text and
reader.
As a result, Jakobson provides us with strong accounts of both how linguistic forms are distributed in
particular poems (i.e., observation) and why good poems are successful (i.e., evaluation), but no account of
what motivates the distribution of these forms (i.e., description) or what these forms contextually entail
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(i.e., interpretation). That is, he says nothing about the structure and significance of the "subjectivity" that
poetic language presents. If two of the major purposes of criticism are to describe and interpret, to show
how art is constituted and how it relates to the lives we lead, this is indeed a severe shortcoming. What is
this subjectivity, exactly? How is it organized--and why? Where does it come from and what does it
signify? What is its relation to linguistic meaning and to the major contexts of language use--psychology,
society, culture, and history?
These questions have a long history and their answers have been a long time coming, but I think
they have now arrived with my new temporal poetics (Cureton 1996b, 1997a, 1997b, 1997c, 1997d,
forthcoming b, forthcoming c, forthcoming d, forthcoming e ). The answer I have developed is that the
grammatical patterning in poetry that Jakobson observes and values gets its significance from our temporal
abilities--first, our rhythmic abilities, and then our ability to "tell" the featural "complexions" of these
rhythms into other media: language, rhetoric, and cultural context. The interpretive keystones of this
theory, what I call the Temporal and Poetic Paradigms, include all of the interpretive principles that
Jakobson suggests (iconicity, symmetry, partitioning, geometry, etc.), but in a greatly expanded and
integrated array and in a way that incorporates them into a similarly expanded and integrated theoretical
context. My claim is this: Jakobson never achieved an adequate theory of poetic rhythm and human
temporality; therefore, he never achieved an adequate theory of poetry.
Like most things, rhythms can be infinitely mixed and modulated. There are few rhythms that
include one rhythmic type and exclude all other other types. Nonetheless, beneath all of the mixing and
blurring, there are four general rhythmic forms that provide the basis of our temporal experience. As
rhythmic forms, or rhythmic components, let's call these: (1) meter, (2) grouping, (3) prolongation, and (4)
theme. As forms of time or temporalities, let's call these: (1) cyclical, (2) centroidal, (3) linear, and (4)
relative.
Both biologically and culturally, these four rhythmic forms develop in the order listed above, and
as they are taken up and shape our experience, they tend to produce levelled structures that recapitulate this
development. Therefore, we can refer to the products of these rhythms as numbered "levels." Meter and
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cyclical time produce level 1; grouping and centroidal time, level 2; prolongation and linear time, level 3;
theme and relative time, level 4.
RHYTHM
TIME
Level 4
theme
relative
Level 3
prolongation
linear
Level 2
grouping
Level 1
meter
centroidal
cyclical
Structurally, these four rhythms reflect the forms of time they create. Meter, which creates cyclical
time, is strongly repetitive (although not entirely so, by any means). The basis of meter is beating, a system
of bodily pulsations, differentiated by prominence, but otherwise identical. In a beating, whole sections of
the rhythmic figuration return again and again, differentiated by only initiating beats, which steadily
decline in strength.
Grouping, which creates centroidal time, is repeatedly centering. It divides a temporal stream into
small groups of events, each of which has one and only prominence, a kind of rhythmic core. These
rhythmic cores are then grouped and centered, building up a hierarchy. In the extreme case, an entire
universe of events can be centered in this way.
Prolongation, which creates linear time, relates present events to distant departures/arrivals, either
by anticipating an imagined future or extending an experienced past.
Theme, which creates relative time, links varied, usually peripheral, events to some imagined, but
usally absent, center, creating a network of loose family resemblances/relations.
These four rhythmic forms can be distinguished by many considerations--by their scope and
stability, by the type of temporal relations they establish, by the kind of temporal figures they develop, and
by the preferred position, orientation, and direction of their events. They can also be distinguished by how
they relate perceivers and events perceived. I call these distinguishing considerations the major features of
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these rhythmic forms. The dialectical relations among the most important of these features can be
summarized the following table, what I call the Temporal Paradigm.
The Temporal Paradigm
Temporal
Features
cyclical
centroidal
linear
relational
event-event
relation
similarity
differencesimilaritydifference
in-similarity in-difference
temporal
figure
occurrence
repetition
succession
correspondence transition
prominence
direction
proportion
implication
subject-subject participation
relation
subject-event
relation
semiotic
relation
cognitive
process
subjective
obligation
objective-in
subjective
icon
emblem
reaction
passive
affection
reciprocal
cooperation
connection
distinction
simultaneity
freedom
subjective-in objective
objective
index
symbol
exploration
creation
active
improvisatory
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clock time:
orientation
past
present
future
relational
scope
proximate
local
regional
event
position
initial
medial
final
curve of
energy/stability
fall
rise-fall
structural
volatility
fixed
constrained
relative
global
peripheral
fall-rise
rise
volatile
free
While it may be a long time before we know these things for sure, these four rhythms seem to be
centrally involved in the structure and evolution of both the major products of human cognition (language,
ideology, society, culture, art, history, etc.) and the major products of evolutionary systems more generally
(biological and sociobiological taxonomies, stages of human evolution, the stratification of the human
brain, etc.). These correlations can also be collected in tabular form, what I call the Poetic Paradigm.
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THE POETIC PARADIGM
Temporality
Cyclical
Centroidal
Linear
Relational
I. Psychological and Neurological
sociobiology
colonial invertebrate
neurology
hind/reptilian brain
cortex
faculty
perception/body
memory/thought
sense
touch
vision
primal sketch
phylogeny
australopithicus
sapiens
ecology
mineral
ontogeny
child
psycho-pathology manic-depressive
amnesia
social insect
higher mammal
mid/mammalian brain left cortex
feeling/emotion
human
right
will/action
smell/taste
full sketch
homo habilis
hearing
2 1/2 D
homo erectus
sight
3-d
homo
vegetable
youth
psychosis
animal
adult
neurosis
human
elder
19th Century
1750-1900
mechanism
Modern
1900-
II. Historical and Cultural
Western culture
Ancient
-1100
formism
philosophy
contextualism
economy
hunting/gathering
information
religion
polytheism
social economy tribalism
socialism
settlement
city
social status family/kinship
writing
orality
cybernetics
logic
conduction
abduction
Medieval/Renaissance
1100-1750
organicism
agriculture
industry
monotheism
feudalism
naturalism
capitalism
humanism
state
estate/peer
chirography
nation
class/citizen
typography
world
comrade
deduction
induction
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temporality
past/traditional present/apocalyptic
relative/pragmatic
government
monarchy
aristocracy
democracy
spatial art
sculpture
architecture
photography
temporal art
dance
music
social ethic
communal fate
personal duty
rights
personal ethic 4
wisdom
faith
creativity
3
justice
obedience
flexibility
2
temperance
charity
tolerance
1
courage
purity
excitement
future/utopian
republic
painting
literature
film
social progress individual
intelligence
responsibility
respect
restraint
III. Literary and Rhetorical
genre
epic
lyric
dramatic
work
song
poem
reader position
language
character
creative process dictation
revelation
creation
trope
metaphor
synecdoche
sound scheme
alliteration
assonance & rhyme
pararhyme
grouping
fall
rise-fall
meter
tetrameter
pentameter
divisioning
stanzaic
paragraphed
arranged
prolongation
extensional
chiastic
fragmentary
syntactic scheme anaphora
antistrophe
symploce
discourse
paratactic
logical
dialectical
semiotic relation iconic
emblematic
symbolic
structure
repetition
pattern
position
initial
medial
peripheral
figuration
opposition
unity
contrast
resolution
pattern
concentric
geometrical
dimensional
process
repetitive
contoured
proleptic
climactic
climactic
contradictory
closed
fixed
shaped
narrative
prose fiction
audience
discovery
play
author
metonymy
consonance
irony
fall-rise
variable
chaptered
rise
free
anticipatory
epistrophe
temporal
indexical
process
final
network
uncertainty
multeity
ambiguity
difference
asymmetrical multidynamic
anticipatory
blurred
directed
static
antiopen
undirected
IV. Prosodic and Syntactic
level
paralanguage
semantics
word stress
weak
primary
prosodic foot
moraic foot
prosodic hierarchy clitic phrase
unit
prosody
tertiary
syllabic foot
phonological phrase
syntax
secondary
dipodic foot
word
tone unit
utterance
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syllable
onset
rhyme
nucleus
coda
intonation
fall
rise-fall
fall-rise
rise
syntactic level
word
phrase
clause
sentence
sentence relations complexing
rank shift
cohesion
transformation
cohesion
repetition
substitution
pronominalization
ellipsis
rank shift
compounding
incorporation
subordination
parenthesis
case
subjective
genitive
objective
[oblique]
sentence types
simple
compound
complex compoundcomplex
sentence types
declarative
exclamative
imperative
interrogative
transformation
preposing
postposing
discontinuity
fragmentation
speech acts
statement
exclamation
command
question
complexing
apposition
conjunction
correlation
comment
clause constituency subjectivization predication
transitivity
qualification
clause constituents subject
predicator
complement
adverbial
clause pattern
intransitive
copular
transitive
adverbial
transitivity
monotransitive complex-transitive
ditransitive
adverbial
mood
indicative
subjunctive
imperative
infinitive
adverbial
adjunct
subjunct
conjunct
disjunct
phrase structure
head
modifier
complement
specifier
word class
noun
adjective
verb
adverbial
phrase type
noun
adjective
verb
adverb/prep
verbal functions
voice
aspect
modality
tense
voice
passive
middle
active
causative
aspect
perfective
imperfective
progressive
perfect
tense
past
present
future
relative modality
necessity
obligation
probability
possibility
word formation
compounding
derivation
inflection
conversion
function words
conjunction
interjection
pronoun
specifier
conjunction
coordinating
subordinating
correlative
comparative
reference
generic
specific
definite
proper
person
3rd
1st
2nd
generic
number
generic
singular
plural
mass
V. Semantic and Thematic
archetypal
earth
sun
stars
moon
18
themes/images
winter
spring
summer
autumn
earth
morning
child
spring
water
noon
youth
brook/stream
air/wind
evening
adult
river
fire
night
elder
heaven
white
Eden
green/yellow
purgatory
red/brown
hell
mineral
east
sunrise
gut/stomach
seed/bud
dew
asexual
vegetable
south
daylight
heart
flower
rain
homosexual
animal
west
sunset
hand/foot/arm
fruit
clouds
heterosexual
human
north
dark
head
leaf
snow
one
quantity
two
quality
three
relation
four
feeling/soul
action/will
ocean/lake
black/blue
bisexual
manner
body
memory/thought
touch
with
taste/smell
from
hearing
into
gold
silver
bronze
awaken
daydream
doze
mother
son
father
sight
against
iron/lead
sleep/dream
daughter
gluttony
sloth
foundation
lust
greed
roof/walls
arithmetic
geometry
pride/anger/greed/sloth envy
anger
pride
door
window/chimney
calculus
fractals
kitchen
dining room
living room
pig/bear
dog/lion
horse
bedroom
bird/cat
squre
God
circle
Christ/Son
spiral
Holy Ghost
maze
Anti-
Christ/Satan
King/President church
legislature
courts
general
priest
legislator/lawyer
artist/scholar
worker/farmer teacher
businessman
administrator
beginnings
middles
ends
wall
cell
steeple
tissue
room
organ
stone
wood
steel
mountain
valley
grass
flower
peripheries
tower
system
plastic
plain/moor
forest/woods
bush/hedge
tree
19
Biologically and psychologically, these temporalities correlate with our four major brains and their
associated senses, psychological faculties, and stages in the life cycle. Cyclical time correlates with the
hind brain, touch, perception, and the child; centroidal time, with the mid-brain, smell/taste, emotion, and
the youth; linear time with the left cortex, sound, volition, and the adult; and relative time with the right
brain, vision, memory, and the elder.
Socioculturally, these temporalities correlate closely with the major historical periods in the
history of the West (ancient, medieval, modern, and postmodern) and their associated social practices,
cultural products, and ideologies--their philosophies, religions, economies, ethics, and so forth. For
instance, centroidal time, which builds up hierarchies by synecdochic, emblematic processes correlates
closely with the local, proportional, reciprocal, and hierarchical organization of the Medieval and
Renaissance period--feudalism, monotheism and the Great Chain of Being, aristocracy, organicism,
deductive logic, geometry, architecture, music, agriculture, and the Christian virtues of faith, love, etc..
These rhythmic correspondences can also be extended robustly to literature, rhetoric, and
archetypal meaning, the basis of literary symbolism. As critics such as Northrop Frye have explicitly
argued (1957, 1981, 1990), the four major literary genres (song/epos, lyric, narrative, and drama) are best
motivated in rhythmic terms; and as Hayden White has argued (1973, 1978, 1987), these four genres can be
put in parallel to both the four "master" tropes (metaphor, synecdoche, metonymy, and irony) and the four
major modes of "emplotment" (romance, comedy, tragedy, and satire). For instance, with its subjectivity,
physicality, and communal performance, song is temporally cyclical, as is metaphor and romance, while
with its tight proportioning, part-whole divisioning, and hierarchical structuring, lyric is temporally
centroidal, as is synecdoche and comedy. Because of the inherent rhythmicity of nature, this four-part
organization is also the common basis for our experience of the world and therefore of archetypal
symbolism: the elements (earth, water, air, and fire), the seasons (spring, summer, fall, and winter), the
solar cycle (morning, noon, evening, night), the major celestial bodies (earth, sun, stars, moon), the points
of the compass (east, south, west, north), the cycle of hydration (spring, brook, river, ocean), and so forth.
The poetic paradigm also extends to language. Much of linguistic form has exactly this quadratic
organization. For instance, there are really four major levels of linguistic form--paralanguage, prosody,
20
syntax, and semantics; and in their basic textures, these four levels closely follow the featural contrasts in
the temporal paradigm. With its basis in the body, binary contrasts, and iconicity, paralanguage is
temporally cyclical. With its basis in prominence, partitioning, and emotional expression, prosody is
temporally centroidal. With its more volatile structure and implicational dependencies, syntax is temporal
linear. And with its multidimensional connectivity and therefore non-linearity, semantics is temporally
relative.
This temporal motivation for linguistic form is especially useful when applied to syntax. Our
standard syntactic descriptions suggest many quadratic articulations: noun, adjective, verb, adverb; word,
phrase, clause, sentence; declarative, exclamative, imperative, interrogative; number, gender, case, person;
and so forth. But because of their quantity and diversity, these four-part organizations in syntactic form are
seldom interrelated or motivated. They are just accepted as formal primitives and described independently.
But consider the relation between the Temporal Paradigm and words, phrases, clauses, and sentences.
Being relatively fixed and unitary, words are temporally cyclical. With their centered heads and structural
slots, phrases are temporally centroidal. With their volatility and robust complementation, clauses are
temporally linear. And with their scope, complexity, and structural freedoms, sentences are temporally
relative. Or consider the relation between the Temporal Paradigm and the four sorts of content words
(nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs). Nouns are typically concrete and stative; therefore, they are
temporally cyclical. Adjectives are typically qualities and have graded intensities; therefore, they are
temporally centroidal. Verbs are typically directed and complemented. Therefore they are temporally
linear. And adverbs are typically diverse, free, peripheral, and oppositional; therefore, they are temporally
relative.
The temporal values of other syntactic categories can be motivated in similar ways. Aspect and
gender both sub-classify; therefore they are temporally centroidal. Apposition promotes similarity of both
form and reference; therefore, it is temporally cyclical. Modality deals with probability and social relations,
therefore it is temporally linear. Exclamatives are intonationally rise-fall and emotional; therefore, they are
temporally centroidal. The past tense looks backward to origins; therefore it is temporally cyclical.
21
Interrogatives are intonationally rising and confrontational; therefore, they are temporally relative. And so
forth.
The Poetic Paradigm is particularly powerful for stylistic analysis because it can unite formal
patterns both across levels of linguistic structure and from linguistic structure to things like rhythm and
rhetoric. For instance, on the basis of a preference for initial position, the Poetic Paradigm links the
beginnings of archetypal cycles (spring, morning, the child, etc.) in semantics; to (among other things)
subjects, topicalization, and anaphora (in syntax); syllabic onsets and alliteration (in sound); falling
intonation and stress contours (in prosody), and meter (in rhythm).
In all poems, all four of the temporal textures are present, albeit in different ways and with
different intensities. Given the complementary relations among the four temporalities, this situation is
necessarily committed, conflicted, and unique. At any given historical moment, for any given poet, and for
any given poem, this temporal mix will necessarily be skewed toward one temporality rather than another,
or some combination of temporalities rather than others. Given the complexity and delicacy of these
temporal embodiments, this subjective texturing will also shift dynamically as we proceed through the
poem. When contextualized with other structures in the poem and the full range of forms and contextual
significances in the Poetic Paradigm, this temporal mixing and skewing defines an articulate problematics
for a hermeneutics of poetic reading.
For instance, a syntactic texture that foregrounds the cyclical and relative and backgrounds the
centroidal and linear, foregrounds conflicts between the body and the imagination, perception and memory,
the communal and the individual, touch and sight, fixity and freedom, etc., while backgrounding emotion
and volition, the religious and the social, smell and hearing, obligation and responsibility, etc. In this theory
of poetry, the goal of poetic criticism is to explore these psychological commitments and conflicts, as they
occur in the overall texturing in the poem, as they develop from from moment to moment in the act of
reading, as they relate to the historical and literary context, and as they bear upon the poem's referential
concern or subject matter, what Helen Vendler (1997, 1-24) likes to call the poem's "occasion"--its outer
scene, story, argument, idea, or whatever.
22
3 Jakobson and Rudy Revisited: Yeats' "Sorrow of Love"
In order to underline this point, it might be useful to apply the theory of poetic temporality that I
am advocating to one of the texts that Jakobson uses in his poetic analyses. The most intense and successful
of Jakobson's analyses, the one I have always most admired, is his analysis of Yeats' "The Sorrow of Love"
(Jakobson 1987, 216-249). In this analysis, Jakobson and Stephen Rudy examine the grammatical
differences between the first book version of "The Sorrow of Love" (published in 1892) and its drastically
revised final form (published in 1925). The comparative basis of this analysis gives it special force and
clarity. Because the analysis focusses on forms that occur in the final version but are lacking (or differently
realized) in the original,
the reader can isolate and weigh the poetic effect of each of the grammatical patterns that Jakobson
observes.
The two versions of the poem are as follows:
The Sorrow of Love
(final version, 1925)
The
The
And
Had
brawling of the sparrow in the eaves,
brilliant moon and all the milky sky,
all that famous harmony of leaves,
blotted out man's image and his cry.
A girl arose that had red, mournful lips,
And seemed the greatness of the world in tears,
Doomed like Odysseus and the labouring ships,
And proud as Priam murdered with his peers;
Arose, and on the instant clamorous leaves,
A climbing moon upon an empty sky,
And all that lamentation of the leaves,
Could but compose man's image and his cry.
--W.B. Yeats
23
The Sorrow of Love
(first book version, 1892)
The
The
And
Had
quarrel of the sparrows in the eaves,
full round moon and the star-laden sky,
the loud song of the ever-singing leaves
hid away earth's old and weary cry.
And
And
And
And
then you came with those red mournful lips,
with you came the whole of the world's tears,
all the sorrows of her labouring ships
all the burden of her myriad years.
And
The
And
Are
now the sparrows warring in the eaves,
crumbling moon, the white stars in the sky,
the loud chaunting of the unquiet leaves,
shaken by earth's old and weary cry.
In this exercise, I will first present Jakobson and Rudy's claims and demonstrations. Then I will
apply the temporal and poetic paradigms to his results (and to other observations that his analysis passes
over without comment).
3.1 Jakobson and Rudy: Claims and Demonstrations
Jakobson and Rudy (JR) recognize that both versions of the poem formally differentiate (1) the
first three lines of each of the outer quatrains from the other six and (2) the inner stanza from the other two
on the textual periphery. JR relate this shared partitioning in these poems to their common theme.
The division of the poem into the six lines in the outer quatrains (lines 1-3 and 9-11) as opposed to
the other six (lines 4-8 and 12), they claim, represents two different metaphysical realms: the
upper/"overground" and the lower/"terrestrial," respectively. The middle stanza is completely devoted to
the lower/"terrestrial" realm; the outer stanzas bring the two realms into conflict, but with a different
outcome. In the first stanza, the upper/"overground" level defeats the lower/"terrestrial" level. In the third
stanza, the lower/"terrestrial" level defeats the upper/"overground" level. In both poems, the "overground"
24
level is articulated with alternating visual and auditory images (e.g., in the 1925 version: brawling,
brilliant, harmon[ious]; clamorous, climbing, lament[ing]).
The three stanzas, they claim, represent three of the 28 phases of the moon in Yeats' lunar
mythology, phases 14-16. Yeats called these phrases "the world" and associates them with "sorrow" (249)-thus the original title of poem: "The Sorrow of the World." The 14th and 16th stages, articulated by the
peripheral stanzas, represent states in which "the greatest human beauty becomes possible" (246). Leading
into the 15th stage, the 14th stage is a "frenzy" of "physical illusion," which Yeats associates with Helen of
Troy and her counterparts; leading away from the 15th stage, the 16th stage is the antithetical state of "selfknowledge and self-mastery" that uses the physical illusions of phase 14 creatively in order to "compose
man's image and his cry" (246). In between, the 15th stage is a state of unattainable beauty, a hiatus
between frenzied desire and creative reflection. Both poems associate this phase with "burden," "doom,"
"murder," "mourn[ing," "sorrow," "labouring," and their result: "the world in tears." In this 15th phase,
contemplation and desire, united into one, inhabit a world where, in Yeats' words, 'every beloved image has
bodily form, and every bodily form is loved', where 'all desire has ceased', and 'all thought has become
image' (247). The repeated verb that flanks the central stanza, arose, puns on "a rose" and links "The
Sorrow of Love" to adjacent poems in The Rose ("The Rose of the World," "The Rose of Peace," "The
Rose of Battle," etc.), especially "When You are Old," which is addressed to Maude Gonne and repeats
love and its derivatives six times, five times in its central stanza and once in its final stanza. The last
instance of love is personified and mythologized, parallel to the mythological figures in the central stanza
of "The Sorrow of Love."
When You Are Old
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How
And
But
And
many loved your moments of glad grace,
loved your beauty with love false or true,
one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
loved the sorrows of your changing face;
25
And bending down beside the flowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
The differing poetic achievements of the two poems, JR claim, result from the differing
grammatical means that they use to partition and articulate the poem. The 1892 version relates the outer
stanza against the inner "either by the presence of certain grammatical categories in the inner quatrain,
coupled with their absence in I and III, or by an equal distribution of certain categories in the two outer
quatrains as opposed to their lower frequency in the inner," with the number 7 "serv[ing as the operative
principle" (240). The inner quatrain has all of the pronouns (i.e., 7); it has a lower number of both
prenominal attributes and definite articles (i.e., 4 as opposed to 7 in each outer quatrain); it presents its two
distichs with a linking anaphora ("And you came," "And...you came"; "And all the...of her," "And all
the...of her"); and it articulates the syntax of its first distich in complete, chiastically figured subjectpredicate structures, first subject-predicate, then predicate-subject:
And then you came with those red mournful lips,
And with you came the whole of the world's tears.
On the other hand, the 1925 version exhibits an "overwhelming preference...for symmetries of
equivalence" rather than difference, with the number 3 serving as the operative principle; and the patterning
achieved is both more intensive and more extensive. These patterns are the following,
3.1.1 Patterns of similarity based on 3
(1) There are three -ing forms, one in each of the three stanzas (brawling, labouring, and
climbing).
(2) There are 27 nouns, 9 in each quatrain. (sparrow, eaves, moon, sky, harmony, leaves, man's
image, cry; girl, lips, greatness, world, tears, Odysseus, ships, Priam, peers; instant, eaves, moon, sky,
lamentation, leaves, man's image, cry).
26
(3) There are three abstract nouns (harmony, greatness, lamentation), one in each of the three
stanzas; and each of these is followed by of.
(4) There are three prenominal attributes per stanza (brilliant, milky, famous; red, mournful,
labouring; clamorous, climbing, empty). Among lines, these are arranged by progression and mirrorsymmetry: 0-2-1-0, 2-0-1-0; 1-2-0-0. Each stanza contains two lines with and two lines without prenominal
attributes; the last line of a stanza never has any; the third line never contains two; the line with two is
always adjacent to a line with none; and the line without attributes advances through the quatrain as the
poem progresses (1st, 2nd, 3rd).
(5) There are three pronouns (his, that, and all). Each is repeated three times. His is the
penultimate word in all three stanzas.
(6) There are nine occurrences of the. In each stanza two lines have the and two do not. Among
the six distichs, these definite articles are distributed 222111, thus differentiating the first half of the poem
from the second.
(7) Each stanza has an indefinite article.
(8) There are nine occurrences of and, three in each stanza.
(9) There are nine occurrences of prepositions (of, in, of, of, in, with, on, upon, of), three in each
quatrain.
(10) Within distichs, the prepositions and the occurrences of and are ordered chiastically: 1-2
(and), 2-1 (prepositions).
(11) There are six finite verbs, three in the outer stanzas and three in the inner. Among lines, finite
verbs pattern as follows: three lines without, then three lines with (had blotted out, arose/had, seemed),
then two sets of three in which only the last line in the triplet has a finite (arose, could..compose).
(12) There are three types of verbs: verbs of state (had, seemed), process (arose, arose), and action
(had blotted out, could...compose). In the flow of the poem, these types of verbs form a chiasmus flanked
by the verbs of action and centering the verbs of state, with the verbs of process in between. Verb phrases
with action verbs have four syllables (had blotted out, could but compose); verb phrases with process verbs
have two syllables (arose, arose); and verb phrases with verbs of state have one syllable (had, seemed).
27
3.1.2 Patterns of difference not based on 3
(1) Only nouns are rhymed (eaves, sky, leaves, cry, lips, tears, ships, peers, eaves, sky, leaves, cry)
and all plural nouns in the text are rhymes (eaves, leaves, lips, tears, ships, peers, eaves). All of rhymes in
the middle stanza (lips, tears, ships, peers) are plural. Rhymes in the outer stanzas alternate singular with
plural (eaves, sky, leaves, cry; eaves, sky, leaves, cry). Rhymes in the first stanza are repeated in the third
(eaves, sky, leaves cry). Rhymes in the second stanza are different (lips, tears, ships, peers).
(2) Of the six personal nouns in the text, two occur in the outer stanzas and are identical (man's)
and four occur in the inner stanza and are different (girl, Odysseus, Priam, peers).
(3) Only the inner stanza has a noun of feminine gender (girl).
(4) Postpositive attributes (doomed, murdered, proud) occur only in the middle stanza.
(5) The only relative pronoun (that) occurs in the inner quatrain.
(6) All appears only in the outer quatrains, twice in the first stanza and once in the third.
(7) Verbs of state (had, seemed) only occur in the inner quatrain.
(8) The outer quatrains are primarily coordinating; the inner quatrain is primarily subordinating.
(9) The outer quatrains are syntactically periodic/anticipatory; the inner quatrain is syntactically
loose/extensional. In the outer quatrains, different subjects refer to the same predicate. In the inner
quatrains, different predicates refer to the same subject.
(10) Equational conjunctions (like, as) occur only in the middle stanza.
(11) Sound linkages connect thematically related concepts in the outer stanzas (e.g., [m.n]: moonharmony-man's; moon-lamentation-man's).
(12) A high concentration of [m] connects the outer stanzas (moon, milky, famous, harmony, man's
image, clamorous, climbing, moon, empty, lamentation, compose, man's, image).
(13) [r] is predominantly pre-vocalic in the outer quatrains (braw.ling, spa.rrow, brill.iant, cry,
a.rose, cla.mo.rous, cry) but post-vocalic in the inner quatrain (girl, mournful, world, tears, la.bour.ing,
mur.dered, peers).
28
(14) The inner quatrain is unified by dense consonance and alliteration: had red mournfulmurdered [dr.dm.r-m.rd.rd], proud-Priam-peers [p.r],
(15) In the outer quatrains, the odd downbeats carry the greater percentage in primary stresses. In
the inner quatrain, the even downbeats
are more frequently stressed.
4 Linguistic Temporality/Subjectivity: A Reanalysis
Many aspects of JR's claims are simply factual and must be accounted for by any account of the
poetic motivations for the Yeats' revisions. For example, the linguistic triplets that JR observe in the 1925
version of the poem are so extensive that they cannot be dismissed by the standard critique of Jakobson's
analyses (e.g., Culler 1975, 55-74) that these grammatical patterns are merely an arbitrary product of his
critical attentions. Few of the grammatical categories that JR invoke to establish their linguistic claims are
marginal and therefore disputed. As far as such things are possible, these grammatical patterns stand as
"objective," intersubjectively verifiable aspects of the text. A critical reading need not attend to these
patterns as JR do, but these patterns are there for all to observe. If it is our collective judgment that the 1925
version of the poem is a better poem in some way, the existence and particular configuration of these
patterns might indeed be involved. In fact, given their extensiveness, it is highly likely that they are. In this
case, the critical onus is not on those who agree with Jakobson's claims but on those who don't. Any critical
reanalysis of JR's claims that disregards these patterns, that dismisses them as superfluous and fortuitous,
must explain why in some detail. Many of JR's other, (non-numerical) observations are of a similar critical
status: the relation between nouns within lines and nouns in line peripheries; the patterning of plural vs.
singular nouns; the distribution of verbs of state, process, and action; and the many non-numerical
grammatical patterns that articulate the text into center vs. periphery: periodic vs. loose syntax, rhythmic
patterning, sonic patterning, the distribution of pronouns and gender, the distribution of post-positive
attributes, the distribution of equative conjunctions, etc.
The major facts that JR fail to motivate are the co-occurrent qualities of the linguistic forms that
Yeats uses to articulate "The Sorrow of Love" into its triplet of parts and the relation of these qualities to
29
human sensibility, both its potentialities and its historically specific realizations. JR claim that the
numerical and positional distribution of these forms are poetically significant, but not their quality. The
implication is that the co-occurrence of these forms is accidental and could have been otherwise. The major
claim of my new temporal poetics is that this is not so. The central difference in the temporal theory of
poetry that I am advocating and Jakobson's poetics revolves around these contrasting claims.
JR observe that, qualitatively, the linguistic textures of the center and periphery of "Sorrow of
Love" contrast in the following ways:
(1) Syntactic Direction
(2) Verbal meaning
(3) Person
(4) Gender
(5) Number (rhymes)
(6) Voice
(7) Elaboration
(8) Pronouns
(9) Modification
(10) Trope
(11) Subordination
Periphery
Center
anticipatory
dynamic
generic
impersonal
mixed
active
coordinating
indefinite
moderate
metonymic
absent
extensional
stative
3rd person
personal
plural
passive
subordinating
relative
rich
metaphoric
present
To these observations we could add the following.
(12) Modality
present
possibility/ability
absent
The outer quatrains (the third quatrain) contains the only modal in the text (could), and this is a
modal of possibility/ability. Why JR fail to observe this is hard to say. This modal is unique; therefore it
neither links the first stanza to the third nor is realized in a triplet of forms. This might explain its omission.
(13) Aspect
perfect
simple
The outer quatrains (the first quatrain) contain the only instance of the perfect aspect (had blotted
out). Why JR omit this observation is also puzzling.
(14) Morphology
conversion
derivation
The outer quatrains have the only instance of a morphological conversion (cry). There are many
derivational and inflectional forms in the text. JR also fail to motivate why the compound adjectives (star-
30
laden and ever-singing) in the 1892 version are omitted in the final and replaced with other forms (e.g.,
milky, a morphological derivative).
(15) Adverbs
present
absent
The outer quatrains have the only adverb in the text. JR notice that the two adverbs (then and now)
in the 1892 version do not appear in the final version, but they fail to notice that another adverb does (but in
Could but compose). Again, this omission might result from the fact that this form is unique. It neither
establishes a parallel nor produces a triple. JR also use this but to argue for the prosodic parallelism of the
verb phrases (had blotted out vs. could but compose), a questionable claim. Adverbs such as but are clausal
constituents not parts of verb phrases.
(16) Basic clause pattern
transitive
non-transitive
The contrast in verbs between outer and inner is not just a contrast in dynamic vs. stative. In fact,
since arose, which can be dynamic, appears in the inner quatrain, this contrast between stative and dynamic
is blurred. The sharper contrast is between transitive vs. intransitive/copular. The outer quatrains have the
only transitive verbs (had blotted out, could...compose).
(17) Multi-Word Verbs
present
absent
The outer quatrains contain the only phrasal verb: had blotted out. In these constructions, the
adverbial particle (out) complements the main verb. When the phrasal verb is transitive, the result is close
to a complex-transitive construction (I blotted it out vs. I made it disappear).
(18) Color
absent
present
The inner quatrain has the only adjective of color: red. This is also a change from the 1892
version, where white occur in the final quatrain.
(19) Modification.
non-restrictive
restrictive
While these judgments are more subjective, the prenominal modifiers in the peripheral stanzas feel
non-restrictive; those in the inner stanza, restrictive. The sky, the moon, and the natural harmony that Yeats
31
refers to in the peripheral stanzas are unique entities, not sets of entities whose members need to be
modified in order to be referenced. These modifiers can be omitted without producing nonsense or a failure
of reference.
The brawling of a sparrow in the eaves,
The moon and the sky.
And that harmony of leaves, ...
In my judgment, the modifiers in the central stanza cannot be omitted in this way.
A girl arose that had lips
Doomed like Odysseus and the ships
4.1 Rhythm
JR notice the contrasting distribution of stress within the metrical lines of the textual periphery vs.
the textual center, but much more could be said about this rhythmic opposition. Following the theoretical
tradition in rhythmic analysis, JR's mode of scansion is not a full rhythmic scansion and therefore is limited
in what it can reveal (Cureton 1992, 1993a, 1993b, 1994a, 1994b, 1996a, forthcoming a).
When translated into a full rhythmic scansion of meter and grouping, the "regressive undulatory
curve" that JR find in the distribution of stresses within the outer quatrains (i.e., the stressing of odd
icti/tactical beats)
amounts to a blurring of the binary structure of the phrased measure. Where stresses appear in the center
and periphery of lines (syllables 2, 6, and 10), points of expected cadential action and metrical projection
are avoided. Phrasal peaks often fall together with metrical projections, temporarily (1) resolving the binary
action in the phrased measure and (2) depriving the measure that follows of a full projection. Many of these
lines also encourage a unitary intonational performance, which heightens this effect.
For instance, I give lines 1, 4, and 12 one intonational unit with three phonological phrases, a
structure that leaves the mid-line cadence without a primary stress and the mid-line projection with the
peak of a phonological phrase. The result is continuous (and therefore prosaic) rather than binary (i.e.,
prominently phrased and metered).
32
Line 1
________________________________________
/
\
intonational unit
w
w
s
__________ ______________ ____________
/
\/
\/
\
phonological phrase
__________ ______________ ____________
/
\/
\/
\
clitic phrase
w
s w
w
w
s w w
w s
v
/ v
\
v
/ v \
v /
syllable
The brawling of the sparrow in the eaves,
.
section
.
stanza
.
part
.
line
.
.
lobe
.
.
.
.
.
tactus
.
. .
.
.
. . .
. .
pulse
Line 4
_______________________________________
/
\
s
w
w
_____________ __________ ____________
/
\/
\/
\
w
s
w
s
_________ __ ____ ____ ____________
/
\/ \/
\/
\/
\
w
s w
s w
w
w
s
\
/ v /
/
/ v
\
\
/
Had blotted out man's image and his cry.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
. . .
.
. .
.
.
.
intonational unit
phonological phrase
clitic phrase
syllable
line
lobe
tactus
pulse
Line 12
________________________________________
/
\
s
w
w
________________ _________ ____________
/
\/
\/
\
w
s
w
s
________ ______ ___ ____ ____________
/
\/
\/
\/
\/
\
w
s
w s
s w
w
w
s
\
/
v /
/
/ v
\
\
/
Could but compose man's image and his cry.
.
.
.
intonational unit
phonological phrase
clitic phrase
syllables
line
lobe
33
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
. .
.
.
.
.
.
tactus
pulse
I give lines 3 and 11 two phonological phrases, but with the first phrases extended so that their
peaks smother their mid-line metrical projections.
Line 3
_____________________________________
/
\
w
s
_________________________ __________
/
\/
\
w
w
w
s
______ ___ _____ ______ _________
/
\/
\/
\/
\/
\
w
s
s w
s w w w
s
\
/
/
/ v
/ v v \
/
And all that famous harmony of leaves,
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
. .
. . . .
.
intonational unit
phonological phrase
clitic phrase
syllable
part
line
lobe
tactus
pulse
Line 11
_____________________________________
/
w
______________________
/
\
s
_____________
\/
\
w
w
s
______ ___ _________ _____________
/
\/
\/
\/
\
w
s
w w s w
w
w s
\
/
/
\ v / v
\
v /
And all that lamentation of the leaves,
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
. . . .
.
. .
intonational unit
phonological phrase
clitic phrase
syllables
part
line
lobe
tactus
pulse
And I give line 9 three intonational units, a structure that produces a fully blocked cadence at the
lineal projection (albeit a more firmly articulated cadence and projection at mid-line).
Line 9
____ __________________ _______________
\/
\/
\
____ __________________ _______________
/
\/
\/
\
w
s
____ __________________ ________ _____
/
\/
\/
\/
\
w s
w
w
w s
w
s w w
v /
\
\
v /
v
/ v v
/
Arose, and on the instant clamorous leaves,
/
intonational unit
phonological phrase
clitic phrase
syllables
34
.
.
.
.
.
. .
.
.
.
.
. .
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
stanza
part
line
lobe
tactus
pulse
On the other hand, all of the the lines in the middle stanza are not just stressed on the even
icti/tactical beats, as JR notice, they are intonationally duple as well, providing both intonational cadences
and stressed projections at mid-line.
Line 5
__________ __________________________
/
\/
\
s
w
w
s
___ _____ ________ ________________
/
\/
\/
\/
\
w
s
w
____ _____ ________ __ _______ ___
/
\/
\/
\/ \/
\/
\
w s
w s
w
s
s
w
v /
v /
\
/
/
/
v
/
A girl arose that had red, mournful lips,
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
. .
. .
.
.
.
.
.
.
intonational unit
phonological phrase
clitic phrase
syllable
stanza
part
line
lobe
tactus
pulse
line 6
______________________ _____________________
/
\/
\
w
s
w
s
_________ ___________ ___________ ________
/
\/
\/
\/
\
_________ ___________ ___________ ________
/
\/
\/
\/
\
w
s
w
s
w
w
w s
w
s
\
/
v
/
v
\
v /
\
/
And seemed the greatness of the world in tears,
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
. .
.
.
intonational unit
phonological phrase
clitic phrase
syllables
line
lobe
tactus
pulse
Line 7
___________________
/
w
_____
s
____________
______________________
\/
\
______________________
intonational unit
35
/
\/
\/
\
w
s
_____ ____________ ________________ ____
/
\/
\/
\/
\
w
w s ww w
w s w w
/
\
\ / vv \
v / v v
/
Doomed like Odysseus and the labouring ships,
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
. .
. .
. .
.
.
phonological phrase
clitic phrase
syllables
part
line
lobe
tactus
pulse
Line 8
__________________ _____________________
\/
\
w
s
w
s
________ ________ ______ _____________
/
\/
\/
\/
\
________ ________ ______ _____________
/
\/
\/
\/
\
w
s
w
sw
s w
w
w
s
\
/
\
/v
/ v
\
\
/
And proud as Priam murdered with his peers;
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
..
. .
.
.
.
/
intonational unit
phonological phrase
clitic phrase
syllables
line
lobe
tactus
pulse
This contrast in the organization of the phrased measure between the textual periphery and the
textual center also appears in the interaction of higher level phrasing and the metrical structure of the
quatrains as a whole. Unlike the pentameter, quatrains are mandatorily duple in their meter. But with its
triplet of lineal subjects preceding its one-line predicate, the higher level phrasing of the first quatrain is
asymmetrical: the first three lines form a phrasal group that runs over the distich break, finding its peak in
the second stanzaic part.
\
The brawling of the sparrow in the eaves,
\
|w |
/
|
\
|
The brilliant moon and all the milky sky, |w |w
/
|
\
|
And all that famous harmony of leaves,
|s |
/
/
\
\
Had blotted out man's image and his cry,
|
|s
/
/
5
6
36
The phrasing of the third quatrain includes this asymmetry but complicates it further. The
introductory recapitulation (Arose) and adverbial (and on the instant) break off from the major articulation
of the stanza (which recapitulates the phrasing of the first stanza), producing a structure that is both
asymmetrically top-heavy (at one level) and asymmetrically end-weighted (at the other).
Arose,
and on the instant
clamorous leaves,
A climbing moon upon a empty sky,
And all that lamentation of the leaves,
Could but compose man's image and his cry.
/
5
\
|s
/
\
|w
/
\
|w
/
\
|w
/
\
|s
/
\
|
/
6
\
\
|
|
|
|
|
|w
|
|
/
/
\
\
|
|
|
|
|
|
|w |
|
|
|
|s
|
|
/
|
\
|
|s |
/
7
On the other hand, the central stanza is binary at levels (including within level 5, which combines
intonational units into syntactic phrases). At higher levels, this binary phrasing is also regularly falling,
another unique gesture within the poem.
A girl arose
that had red, mournful lips,
And seemed the greatness
of the world in tears,
Doomed like Odysseus
and the labouring ships,
And proud as Priam
\
|w
/
\
|s
/
\
|w
/
\
|s
/
\
|w
/
\
|s
/
\
|w
/
\
\
\
|
|
|
|s |
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
/
| s |
\
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|w |
|
|
|
|
/
/
|
\
\
|
|
|
|
|s |
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
/
|
|
\
|w |
|
|
|
|w |
|
\
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
37
murdered with his peers;
4
\
|
|s |
/
/
5
6
|
|
|
|
|
|
/
/
/
7
8
On the basis of these more detailed scansions, several rhythmic contrasts can be added to the list
of features that distinguish the peripheral stanzas from the central stanza.
Periphery
Center
(20a)
Phrasal span
varied
duple
(20b)
Phrasal direction
rising
falling
(20c)
Phrased measure
abnormal
normal
4.2 Sound
JR's observations about sound in the text are also partial and again miss the crucial distinctions
that articulate the textual periphery and textual center. The intense consonantal and alliterative patterning
that JR observe does not pervade the text indiscriminately, establishing semantic connections (although it
does establish these connections as well). And other sound patterns need to be noticed and integrated into
any full assessment of the sonic texture of the poem.
Alliteration and consonance does pervade the text, but in the peripheral stanzas, these combine to
form pararhyme, often in multiple linkages.
sor.row-spar.row
brawl.ing-brill.iant
love-leaves
man's-har.mon.y-moon-la.man.tation
climb.ing-com.pose-clam.or.ous
The central stanza has only one instance of pararhyme, and this is only partial and single.
mourn.ful-mur-dered
38
All other sonic schemes (alliteration, consonance, assonance, and rhyme) pervade the text. In the
center of the text, alliteration becomes especially strong, however. Every word in the central stanza is
linked to some other word by full (or partial) alliteration, often in close proximity.
Doomed-O.dy.sse.us-tears
proud-Priam-peers
girl-great.ness
like-lips-la.bour.ing
a.rose-red
world-with
seemed-ships
had-his
that-the-this
A-And-of-in-and-And-as
In the peripheral stanzas, the repetition of initial consonants is just as dense, but some of these repetitions
become pararhyme. As JR notice, the central stanza has a strong consonantal pattern in [r], but this pattern
is not matched and combined with a strong alliterative pattern in [r].
We might also note that the central stanza has some especially prominent assonantal patterns.
Vowels on stressed tactical beats within lines often echo vowels in the rhymes at line end.
seemed-tears
O.dy.sse.us-ships
Pri.am-peers
This only happens once in the outer stanzas:
climb.ing-sky
Vowels in function words in the inner stanza also echo vowels in the stanzaic rhymes:
in-with-his
ships-lips
This never occurs in the outer stanzas.
In the central stanza, assonance also links two of the most prominent grammatical triplets in the
poem: the abstract noun and the ing-form.
great.ness-la.bou.ring
This also never happens in the outer stanzas.
39
Given these supplemental observations about sound, the following can be added to the
grammatical patterning that distinguishes the textual center from the textual periphery.
periphery
(21) sound
pararhyme
center
alliteration & assonance
4.3 Summary
If we add all of these additional observations to JR's original collection, we get the following:
Periphery
(1) Syntactic Direction
(2) Verbal meaning
(3) Person
(4) Gender
(5) Number (rhymes)
(6) Voice
(7) Elaboration
(8) Pronouns
(9) Modification I
(10) Trope
(11) Subordination
(12) Modality
(13) Aspect
(14) Morphology
(15) Adverbs
(16) Basic Clause Pattern
(17) Multi-Word Verbs
(18) Color
(19) Modification II
(20a) Phrasal span
(20b) Phrasal direction
(20c) Phrased measure
(21) Sound
Center
anticipatory
extensional
dynamic
stative
generic
3rd person
impersonal
personal
mixed
plural
active
passive
coordinating
subordinating
indefinite
relative
moderate
rich
metonymic
metaphoric
absent
present
possibility/ability
absent
perfective
absent
conversion
derivation
present
absent
transitive
non-transitive
present
absent
absent
present
non-restrictive
restrictive
varied
duple
rising
falling
abnormal
normal
pararhyme
alliteration & assonance
4.4 Reanalysis
In the light of the theory of poetic temporality I am suggesting, the particular qualities of the
poetic features that distinguish center from periphery in "The Sorrow of Love" are immediately
recognizable. The features that occur in the center of the text "tell" a centroidal and cyclical temporality;
the features in the periphery, a linear and relative one. This observation, together with others of a
40
comparable sort, reveal the limitations of Jakobson's theory of poetry as "grammatical geometry," and in
doing so, provide a more principled alternative.
4.4.1 Historical Positioning
With its discontinuous, polarized middle and static, paradoxical periphery, "The Sorrow of Love"
announces its dominant modernity, while its coherent syntactic and narrative undertone and rhymed and
metered background display its continuing, but less dominant, relations with both Romanticism and the
Renaissance lyric. The major effect of the Yeats' revisions is to clarify this historical positioning by
converting the ternary organization of the text from a loose grouping of differentiated, and therefore lyric
parallels into a tight organization of static alternatives. The principle that determines the isolated, largescale divisioning of the original text is spread out into the poetic texture as a whole, foregrounding the
memorial/relative at the expense of the linear, centroidal, and cyclical. As a result of its formal triplets,
each of the stanzas is felt as a precise thematic variant of the others, dampening the impression of forward
motion, emotive synthesis, and perceptual return. Impressions of similarity (which characterize the
cyclical), similarity-in-difference (which characterize the linear) and difference-in-similarity (which
characterize the centroidal) are reduced to impressions of pure difference, paradoxically and
discontinuously juxtaposed. The omission of the temporal adverbials (then and now) from the original and
their conversion to a recapitulation (arose), a qualification (but), and an invocation of the immediate
present (on the instant) also dampens the text's linearity while foregrounding its simultaneity/spatiality.
Jakobson's ahistorical claim that the final text's numerology heightens its poeticality is valid, then,
but limited. The pervasively static paralleling that Yeats achieves in the final version of the poem would be
inappropriate in texts with a more dominantly linear, centroidal, or cyclical temporality. Tightly parallel but
precisely varied, the three parts of the final text do not proceed. essentialize, or repeat; they
juxtapose/differentiate. Shards of consciousness are arranged in a contradictory, static network.
4.4.2 Poeticality
41
Above and beyond this more precise historical positioning, Yeats' revisions also heighten the text's
general poeticality, but in ways that are also inaccessible to Jakobson's theory of "structural geometry." As
JR observe, both texts oppose a more concrete, personal, gendered, metaphorical, and non-teleological
center to a more abstract, impersonal, generic, metonymic, and teleological periphery--and Yeats' nonnumerical revisions greatly clarify this thematic opposition. The exact nature of these non-numerical
revisions, however, can only be motivated in temporal terms. As the catalogue of formal features that we
assembled above articulate, the primary thematic opposition that distinguishes center from periphery in the
text is between active memory and the loved physical beauty, the temporally linear and relative vs. the
temporally cyclical and centroidal, with a further polarization between the relative and the cyclical. In the
outer quatrains, the linear is present but is subordinated in both quality and quantity to the relative. In the
inner quatrain, the centroidal is present but is subordinated in both quality and quantity to the cyclical. The
creative memory articulated in the outer quatrains is statically contradictory/ironic (it both
creates/"composes" and destroys"'blots out"). The loved body articulated in the inner quatrain is mythically
fated (it is "Doomed like Odysseus," "proud as Priam murdered"). The love that is creatively remembered
is necessarily lost. The creativity that articulates this lost love is impotently static. The maximal
polarization in sensibility that everywhere characterizes the modern is present here in sharp detail.
Yeats' revisions clarify this thematic opposition by enriching and purifying the relevant temporal
"tellings" in their respective textual positionings. In the textual center, these revisions intensify and purify
the centroidal and cyclical, especially the cyclical. The phrasal binarism and falling motion foregrounds
meter and invokes the cyclical concern for symmetry and maximal contrast. The dense alliteration
heightens syllabic onsets and foregrounds prosodic decline. The passive participles invoke cyclical
reaction. The more pervasively right-branching syntax intensifies syntactic decline. The omission of the
all's eliminates totalizing qualification. The mythical references foreground bodily imagery. The omission
of compounds and color terms from the textual periphery limits morphological blending and physical
reference to the textual center. The elimination of the adverbial then dampens narrativity and speaker
comment. And the equative subordination (like, as) invokes the cyclical concern for similarity. On the other
hand, the increased subordination invokes the centroidal concern for dependency. The thinning out of
42
modification in the textual periphery heightens the influence of this clausal dependency by reducing the
presence of phrasal dependency in the text as a whole. The prominent assonance (greatness-labouring)
promotes phonetic "centering." The added linking verbs (had, seemed) intensify attribution. And the
substitution of a girl for you invokes gender contrast and indefiniteness and eliminates second person
reference (which is more often associated with the linear).
In the textual periphery, Yeats' revisions intensify and purify the relative and linear, especially the
relative. With respect to the linear, the substitution of the modal and transitive could...compose for the nonmodal and passive are shaken heightens the presence of the active and contingent. The dissolving of the
phrased measure makes the rhythmic motion more continuous and unpredictable. And the roughing up of
the syntactic parallelism between the first stanza and the third (with the addition of Arose, and on the
instant) promotes asymmetry. With respect to the relative, the added all's enhance totalizing generalization
and the added but adverbial qualification. The substitution of man's for earth's invokes generic person. The
pervasive pararhyme hollows out syllabic centers and promotes prosodic peripheries. And the addition of
the perfect aspect (had blotted out vs. was shaken)) invokes memory.
4.4.3 Subsidiary Divisioning
Compared to this rich and consistent support for a divisioning between center and periphery in the
poem, support for the other formal divisionings that JR suggest (i.e., between anterior and posterior and
between line 1-3/9-11 and 4-8/12) is slight. In fact, it is best dismissed as spurious. From a temporal
perspective, the formal textures of lines 4 and 12 are densely continuous with the formal textures of lines 13 and 9-11, not lines 5-8. These lines are rhythmically continuous and asymmetrical and grammatically
modal, adverbial, perfective, transitive, and generic. They also participate prominently in the general
asymmetry, continuity, and periodicity of the stanzas in which they appear.
4.4.4 Conclusion
Both intuition and analysis support JR's claim that the final version of "The Sorrow of Love" is a
"better" poem than the 1892 version. Yeats' massive revisions of the poem consistently clarify and intensify
43
the earlier text's implicit, but less fully realized, intention. Close analysis also supports JR's claim that many
of Yeats' revisions tighten parallels and sharpen textual divisionings--even more extensively than JR
observe. But the superior "poeticality" of the final text--its heightened "monumentality" and therefore
aesthetic intensity and memorability--does not result exclusively (or even primarily) from this sharpened
parallel divisioning, much less from the superficial numerical symmetry that this divisioning entails.
Rather, as with all poems, the final text derives it poetic value from the increased clarity and intensity with
which it articulates, and therefore makes available to artistic experience, the composition, complexity, and
historical significance of our human temporalities, as these temporalities can be "told" in and through a
skillfully crafted language. To achieve the great poem, words must indeed obey the poet, but not just this:
time must obey the words.
44
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