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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Spring 2010

E 396L • Prosody

Unique Days Time Location Instructor


Course Description

Meeting time, location: (Official course schedule)

The usual plan of this course is to focus during the first half of the semester on the iambic pentameter in its many forms and variations from the sixteenth century to the present, and in the second half on applications of this understanding of rhythm to the craft of free verse. Of special interest in free verse is the determination of the line and the line end in addition to the internal dynamics of stress.

This time around I would like to keep the same general format but fold into the metrical section a consideration of non-iambic meters—strong stress, anapestic, dactylic, Sapphic, dipodic, and so on. Tennyson and Swinburne experimented with mixed meters beyond the strict iambic, and though that development was cut short by Modernism, some poets and prosodists now see mixed meters as a way of creating a freer and more flexible metered poetry. For an understanding of strong-stress meter from Hopkins to the present, I will sketch the basic principles of medieval alliterative poetry, and I can work individually with students who have a background in Old or Middle English.

In addition to metrical theory, there will be much attention to practical prosody: scanning and analyzing short poems and discussing the metrical patterns of poems written by the class. Students will be asked to write poems and to memorize more canonical poems, in meter and in free verse.


Typical essays and books sections in the packets of reading are the following:

W.K. Wimsatt, Jr., and Monroe C. Beardsley, "The Concept of Meter: An Exercise in Abstraction," PMLA, 74 (1959), 585-98.

George R. Stewart, Jr. The Technique of English Verse (New York, 1930).

Paul Fussell, Poetic Meter and Poetic Form, rev. ed. (New York, 1979).

Marjorie Perloff, “Lucent and Inescapable Rhythms: Metrical 'Choice' and Historical Formation,” in The Line in Postmodern Poetry, ed. R. J. Frank and H. M. Sayre ( Urbana, 1988), pp. 13-40.

Sandra M. Gilbert, “Glass Joints: a Meditation on the Line, ” Ibid., pp. 41-50.

David Lehman, The Line Forms Here (Ann Arbor , 1995).


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