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Title: 'Dancing in chains' : patterns of sound in the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins
Author: Hurley, M. D.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2004
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In his 1973 essay ‘Reflections on Meaning and Structure’, B.F. Skinner asks ‘what is gained from dancing in chains’: he wonders why poets ‘submit to the restrictions imposed by a prior specification of form or structure’. Through an examination of the poetry and poetics of Gerard Manley Hopkins, this thesis offers an answer to Skinner’s inquiry. Hopkins is an especially appropriate subject for such a study because the ‘restrictions’ that he submits to, both metrical (sprung rhythm) and non-metrical (his dense phonetic parallelisms), are particularly severe. The complicated and uncertain basis for Hopkins’s prosody provokes questions about the nature of metricality, and so the first chapter concerns itself with a general appraisal of prosodic theory. The principles argued for here provide the conceptual foundation for the subsequent analysis of sprung rhythm. Chapter 2 explores Hopkins’s wider aesthetic, focusing on his conviction that artistic success requires not only symmetry, but also variety; and that, crucially, this variety must be met by, and subordinated to, a corresponding strictness. His non-metrical effects are also considered through an extended comparisons with nonsense poetry, which yields the radical suggestion that in Hopkins’s poetry (in an inversion of the traditional rubric) sense may seem an echo to the sound. Chapter 3 examines Hopkins’s account of his prosody and finds that he has been widely misunderstood, from Bridges to the present day, notably regarding his recommendations for scansion. Learning from this, the final chapter investigates the metrical character of sprung rhythm in order to assess if it really is, as Hopkins insisted, ‘stricter, not looser than the common prosody’. Quantitative and stress-based restrictions are considered, rendering two, complementary explanations: that sprung rhythm is isochronous; and that this ‘strictness’ is further refined by rules pertaining to the ‘length or strength’ of syllables within the so-called ‘weak’ and ‘strong positions’ of his lines. In vindicating Hopkins’s claim to metrical ‘strictness’, these interpretations challenge the predominant critical opinion that sprung rhythm is merely an unbuttoned, and idiosyncratic, expression of simple accentual metre.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available