Original Research

Affordances of form in stanzaic narrative poetry

B. McHale
Literator | Vol 31, No 3 | a57 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v31i3.57 | © 2010 B. McHale | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 16 July 2010 | Published: 25 July 2010

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B. McHale, Department of English, The Ohio State University, United States

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This article develops the notion that poetry is crucially distinguished from other forms of verbal art by its foregrounding of segmentivity, the spacing of language. If a measure is regarded as the smallest unit of resistance to meaning, measure determines where gaps open up in a poetic text. Poetry is, however, not only measured, but typically countermeasured and narrative in poetry can also be countermeasured against the segmentation that is specific to narrative. The present article investigates segmentivity in one particular type of narrative poem, namely poems in discontinuous stanzaic forms. The concept of affordances (referring to different potentials for use) is applied to the stanzaic form in Edmund Spenser’s “The faerie queene” (1590; 1596) and to the “ottava rima” stanza, as exemplified by Kenneth Koch’s postmodernist narrative poem, “Seasons on earth” (1960; 1977; 1987).


afforAffordance; Narrative Poetry; Ottava Rima; Segmentivity; Spenserian Stanza; Stanzaic Poetry


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