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Anxious gatekeeping

Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Formative (9): Prosody

So I learned how the iambic pentameter worked by reading Milton and Wordsworth. I was shocked in grad school that people didn't know this. I also knew French and Latin and Greek prosody, and I did my graduate exams on this subject. I was shocked when a science fiction novelist on a blog (the valve) a few years back thought he could translate Mallarmé, but he didn't know what the definition of a feminine rhyme was in French. People thought I was outrageous for pointing out that that showed a level of ignorance that disqualified you from even thinking intelligently about Mallarmé. I was the bad guy here, simply because I thought that it is important to know a simple rule of French versification, one followed by Racine or Baudelaire in all their verse. I'm sure people write about Afro-Cuban poetry without knowing the difference between the son and the rumba clave.

I enjoy the technical aspect of prosody. It's one of the few things you can know about in a fairly concrete way in literature. I enjoy the fact that others find it dull or incomprehensible: more for me to do.

I had to train myself to hear an 11-syllable line as 11 syllables (in Spanish), and scan it more or less instantaneously.

I am prone to ear-worm, but with me it occurs with words and phrases, not just melodies.

***

My attitudes did not win me many friends.

4 comments:

Vance Maverick said...

I had just about forgotten about The Valve. Of course I had to go look up the squabble, and now I see that most of what I had forgotten was what a jerk Puchalsky is. That you annoyed that group is not really surprising or interesting -- I think only Kugelmass was in literary scholarship.

Roberts writes well, actually, but that's orthogonal, as we say, to whether he's thinking clearly about verse translation.

Jonathan said...

I like Holbo, of that group. I still follow him on CT.

Vance Maverick said...

Me too. But nobody he brought on at The Valve was as interesting, and the commenter crowd wasn't much. I might have been most turned off by Bill Benzon, the sort of blowhard who gives autodidacticism (autodidactry?) and independent scholarship a bad name.

profacero said...

I don't really understand why people in literature cannot handle these technical things. Actually this is one more reason I am not interested in academic work -- the people in it cannot handle it ... (?) [I am crabby today.]