Approaches to Prosody

Advanced Language and Rhetoric II
ENGL 3027
January - April 2010

Brief Description of Course

In this course, we will examine a variety of approaches to the study of the formal elements of poetry. We will examine traditional English verse scansion with a view towards its limitations. We will examine alternative theories of scansion, proposed mostly during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including beat scansion, generative metrics, and parallels with music. We will also examine stanzaic structure, rhyme, and other linguistic patternings, including new developments in the field of phonostylistics, the study of texts based on their phonetic content. We will read some of the best English poetry and try to understand what makes poetry poetry.


Course reader
on reserve: Paul Fussell, Poetic Meter & Poetic Form
on reserve: Derek Attridge, The Rhythms of English Poetry


10%  first assignment
12%  second assignment
12%  third assignment
12%  fourth assignment
14%  mid-term test
30%  final exam
10%  participation


The due dates of the four assignments are listed on the class schedule: papers are due in class on those days. The papers may be handed in up to one week late without any penalty; after that, the lateness penalty will be 2%/day, including Saturdays and Sundays.

Plagiarism will not be tolerated. All essays and tests are subject to an additional oral and/or written test at my discretion. All suspected plagiarism will be reported.

Office Hours

Tuesdays 10:00 to 11:00
Thursdays 2:00 to 4:00
Please drop by my office (without an appointment) during office hours. If you would like to meet me at a different time, please email me and we’ll set up an appointment.


Please feel free to email me. My email address is: marcp @ -- and you know the rest of the regular Nipissing domain email address. To assist me, please place ENGL3027 at the start of the subject line (Nipissing sends me many emails every day: I do not want emails from students to get lost in the profusion of administrative communications). You may have to wait a day or two for an answer: please do not email me requests that need to be answered immediately. Note also that if I think an email response will take too much time or will not adequately address the complexity of the issue raised, I will simply respond by requesting you meet with me during office hours to discuss the issue.

Participation and Attendance

You will receive no grade on attendance alone. Participation includes both a vocal component and participation in in-class exercises.

Class schedule (subject to change)

January 4introduction
January 6words and syllables; feet
January 11basic scansion
January 13basic scansion; duple and triple metre
January 18basic scansion; substitutions and pull
January 20basic scansion; verse forms
January 25basic scansion; caesuras and pauses
January 27basic scansion; interpretation
February 1advanced scansion; secondary stressfirst assignment
February 3advanced scansion
February 8advanced scansion; prose
February 10mid-term test
February 15study week
February 17study week
February 22basic, accentual, and sprung rhythm; counterpointsecond assignment
February 24musical rhythm
March 1musical rhythm; architechtonics
March 3generative metrics
March 8generative metrics
March 10rhyme; alliteration; phonemics
March 15phonemicsthird assignment
March 17phonemics
March 22poetry and sound
March 24poetry and sound; poetry and music
March 29poetry and musicfourth assignment
March 31review