2007-08 BM1: Session 10

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Back to 2007-08 BM1 Introduction to the Critical and Scholarly Discussion of Literature, Part 1


Argument 9: The creation of literature turned "poetry" into a field of minor and more intimate genres

Received Notions on

transition around 1800: from 'classicist poetics' to greater formal liberty from 'imitation of models' to 'originality' from poetic diction to intimate personal expression

continuities: poet as exceptional individual and representative voice (public status, bard) beautiful, artful language

Second Thoughts

it is not enough to represent pre 1800 poetry as 'the opposite' of post-1800 poetry. There was a completely different setting.

  1. we know by now that

poetry was originally the entire corpus of epic, dramatic and lyrical poetry. all artfully composed language language in verse

  1. poetry or poesy was not an exclusive practice but one in which scholars, theologians, politcal pamphleteers, practiced.

More complex or differentiated perspectives

a system of genres divided into higher and lower (prose is only allowed in lower), and into epic, dramatic, lyrical.

The formation of literature has major consequences for the concept of poetry:

  1. literature implies the exclusion of some genres which used to be part of poetry (notably the central areas of opera and song)
  2. literature includes new genres which were not originally part of poetry (the novel)
  3. the term poetry itself was increasingly reduced in scope (only rarely used for dramatic or narrative texts), limited to a set of smaller poetic forms which had previously not been specifially labeled as a group.

changes in the public status of the poet

What do we do with a poem?

do a routine check:

  • who is speaking, to whom, when, where? (what is the communicative situation)
  • what is being spoken about?
  • what are the special charactistics of language (figurative, metre etc.)
  • what is the "external communicative situation": (form of publication or circulation)
  • employing linguistic / poetic / aesthetic conventions or transgressing against them.

look especially for genre characteristics

perspectives beyond the present lecture

the poet / the author as eccentric extraordinary individual