ERIC Number: ED161054
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1978
Reference Count: 0
Reader Expectations and the Poetic Line.
Stalker, James C.
The form of the print poetic line is partially determined by the expectations of the potential readers since authors, as participants in the common literary heritage of their culture, make use of the common expectations of that literary heritage. As a test of this hypothesis, one poem by James Dickey and one by Ted Olson were printed as prose, and 25 readers were asked to divide them into lines. Their expectations were then compared to the linear organization of the poems. Analysis of the results suggests that readers end lines at major syntactic breaks and that reader expectations and author practice show definite patterns of congruence. Dickey and his readers agree on the number of lines for the poem but disagree on where the lines should end; his line end choices, however, are predictable from the readers' expectations. Olson and his readers agree on the appropriate line ends, but his readers expect far more lines than he produces. His lines too are predictable from the readers' responses. The results, while not discounting rhythm as a significant feature in defining the poetic line, suggest that lines are definable, as poets generally agree; that poets'"energy" is the play between syntactic expectation and linear fulfillment; and that the reader takes part indirectly in poets' line end decisions. (Author/GW)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Dickey (James); Olson (Ted); Poetic Line; Reader Response
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Interdisciplinary Conference on Linguistics (4th, Louisville, Kentucky, April 7-8, 1978)