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The Rise and Fall of MeterPoetry and English National Culture, 1860--1930$
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Meredith Martin

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780691152738

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691152738.001.0001

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The Discipline of Meter

The Discipline of Meter

(p.109) 4 The Discipline of Meter
The Rise and Fall of Meter

Meredith Martin

Princeton University Press

This chapter looks closely at the rise of state-funded English education to uncover the disciplinary role that poetry played. It shows how the naturalization of English “meter” was a crucial part of the English literary curriculum. “Meter” is placed in quotation marks because the “meter” that emerges in the state-funded classroom has little to do with the prosody wars going on outside its walls. Educational theorist Matthew Arnold's cultural metrics, in which poetry by Shakespeare, for instance, will subtly and intimately transform a student into a good citizen, is replaced by a patriotic pedagogy wherein verses written in rousing rhythms are taught as a naturally felt English “beat.” It suggests that poet and educational theorist Henry Newbolt's figure of the “drum” performed a naturalized rhythm that brought England together as a collective. The collective mass identification with (and proliferation of) patriotic verses created an even sharper divide between the high and low, elite and mass, private and public cultures of poetry in the early twentieth century.

Keywords:   English meter, Matthew Arnold, Henry Newbold, state-funded education, English education, poetry, patriotic pedagogy

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