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date: 24 October 2018

Abstract and Keywords

In the sixteenth century as much as today, ideas about how poetry should sound shaped how poetry did sound. This article ventures an account of how Spenser meant his poetry to sound and how an astute reader of his time would have heard it, using the evidence implicit in his language and explicit in contemporary prosodic theory. The achievements of recent theoretical linguistics in describing English meter will play only a background role, on the understanding that Spenser's idiosyncratic prosody will often override what the history of the pentameter line in aggregate can tell us — just as our own idiosyncrasies as readers can override that history and those principles, or at least defy their predictions. Such is the scandal of historical prosody.

Keywords: poetry, English meter, prosody, language, prosodic theory

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