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WikiProject Poetry (Rated C-class, Mid-importance)
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Merger proposal[edit]

Currently, this article, Scansion, constitutes an extensive overhaul of Systems of scansion. My intent is that any last useful remnants of Systems of scansion should be integrated into this article, then Systems of scansion be deleted and redirected here.

I will briefly note some of my goals and stances in undertaking this overhaul, so that anyone who cares can develop a more informed approval or disapproval. First, I have aimed at a much more comparative and explanatory treatment; this has involved making a few simplifications in the description of some of the more complex methods, but I don't believe that an exhaustive description of every scansion method ever used would be a virtue. In conjuction with this, I have grouped and sub-grouped notations, not by their graphic likeness, but (as best I can) more by their practical and theoretical likenesses ("Other" is just in chronological order). I have with some regret, eliminated User:DionysosProteus's attractive scansion boxes (sorry!), simply because my method of starting a line with a space (which results in rows of monospaced characters) is so much more accessible to less experienced editors, and, apart from a few pesky characters, is WYSIWYG in editing. And I'm happy to clarify my stance on any other issues that may come up.

Obviously work remains to be done. Most glaringly, the absence of Musical scansion (which should include virtually all temporal metrics -- perhaps that should be the heading) and Generative metrics (even though this is more "metrics" than "scansion") is unacceptable. A brief History might be useful. And I trust that you (dear Wikipedians) will devise further improvements. Phil wink (talk) 23:18, 10 August 2010 (UTC)

I like the way Systems of scansion lays out succinctly the different notations with little discussion. If I recall correctly this was done partly to assist in editors agreeing on a particular system for annotating scansion in wikipedia articles. The ready visual comparison with a brief expalanation indicating how widespread the use is, was important in this context. By the same token I can see the need for a more discursive and explanatory article such as we have in the new Scansion article. So for now I'd resist a quick merging, but I do feel uncomfortable at the overlap. Maybe as we work through editing Scansion some good ideas will emerge. (talk) 06:14, 11 August 2010 (UTC)
As I harp on in the overview, beyond being a technical task on its own, even a casual scansion has a host of (usually) unstated assumptions behind it. So I am not a fan of any treatment that has "little discussion" around it. However, I will admit that I have written this article with a view to readers not editors of Wikipedia. It is not unreasonable that editors should have a specialized reference, whether this takes the form of a series of examples, a style sheet, a help article, or what-have-you. To the extent that that is a perceived virtue of Systems of scansion, then yes, it is not well represented in this article, it should be preserved, and (in my view) should exist on its own (e.g. not be merged here). I will shortly post a series of suggestions at Talk:Systems of scansion that (in my view) might make it more useful as the internal face of Scansion's external... er... ass? Phil wink (talk) 04:25, 16 August 2010 (UTC)

Block quoted text removed for now[edit]

I've removed the block quote from the start of the overview as it seems stylistically inconsistent with other wikipedia articles - an admittedly quick click through a few dozen pages failed to show any others with a similar blue-backgrounded block quote - I'm pasting the text here so it is not lost, and for future reference. Happy to discuss ... here's the removed text ...

T.V.F. Brogan, after having examined virtually every work ever written on versification in English, concluded that it is "a field which in historical terms has been (it is not too extreme to say) a great mass of ignorance, confusion, superficial thinking, category mistakes, argument by spurious analogy, persuasive definitions, and gross abuses of both concepts and terms."[1]
John Hollander helpfully points out that "English prosody has tended to be a subject for cranks."[2]

Stumps (talk) 22:42, 14 August 2010 (UTC)

Scope of article: English language?[edit]

The current content seems to assume a scope of 'Scansion of English language verse' ... should we change the title accordingly, or expand the contents to take account of other languiages? In particular scansion of classical Greek and Latin verse is obviously of direct relevance to the development of scansion inj English, but there is much of interest to be said about scansion of languages such as French and Russian. Stumps (talk) 03:20, 17 August 2010 (UTC)

Yes, the current scope is English verse. Personally, this doesn't worry me too much. It is natural that linguistic topics in an English-language encyclopedia will cover English aspects of those topics first and most fully. Compare for example Iambic pentameter which doesn't even mention that this is a significant meter in German, Russian, and Scandinavian languages (and perhaps more... what do I know?); and that the boundaries of metricality vary from one language's iambic pentameter to the next. But I trust that over time, these articles will get more global, as they should.
On Greek & Latin: Yes, personally I'd put this in a History section, which might also include a discussion of actual caesura which will help explain why most English verse has no caesura (a hobbyhorse of mine); New Princeton also has a brief note on Sanskrit -- the earliest known scansion -- which would be fun and proper to include.
On scansion in other modern languages: At this time, I cannot contribute anything of interest; perhaps you have better sources. I've always assumed that most other languages simply didn't have the level of confusion (and therefore competing methods) that English does; mostly because our marker, stress, is so varied (e.g. as I understand it, Russian actually has just 2 stress levels in verse; if true, about 90% of this article would simply have no analogue in that language!). My few global references (Gasparov, Princeton, Wimsatt) do sometimes show scansions of verse in other languages, but I am given no reason to think that these are "native" scansions. In an article on meter there may be a benefit to showing how an English prosodist would scan (say) Persian verse... but in scansion I think it had better be a Persian scansion. Phil wink (talk) 06:05, 24 August 2010 (UTC)

Yet another poorly written wiki article meant for people that already know the answer[edit]

Thanks once more for a wiki article that has no meaning to the layman!

Well done.

I am glad you folks write to amuse yourselves. (talk) 16:51, 25 March 2012 (UTC)

I would have to agree, as tetraseme redirects here, I came here to find out what it was, and it does not occur once on the page. prat (talk) 12:05, 22 September 2016 (UTC)

Scansion System in Poetry[edit]

Scansion is mentioned as a tool for analyzing the syllables in a verse of poetry. It is my recommendation that there is a linkage of Scansion & Foot(Prosody) in the Wikipedia database.

The Foot (prosody) article already uses some of Scansion as it talks about Disyllables, Trisyllables, & Tetra syllables.


Disagreement with Premises of Page[edit]

The Scansion page makes assumptions with which by no means all experts on metrics agree, whether they're linguists or literary critics. The crucial assumption is that stress and ictus must be distinguished in English verse. This is closely related to the notion of "beats" as essential to meter in English poetry. This is a reasonable approach: it's Derek Attridge's. The whole page, as currently presented, makes Attridge's system of scansion (or something close to it, like Groves') a foregone conclusion. This system of scansion brings with it a number of further assumptions about the nature of meter and rhythm in verse—as does any system of scansion.

However, though Attridge's method is rightly respected, and in some contexts compelling (e.g., for meters still strongly associated with song), it is not authoritative in the way that Wikipedia generally strives to be. Many critics (including me) will argue that it's possible to make a "traditional" system of scansion account for everything necessary about the meter of a line and the aspects of rhythm that directly interact with the meter. To a generative linguist, on the other hand, the whole "beat" approach looks misguided. Though the generativists are only one competing camp, they too have powerful claims to make.

The irascible note above this in Talk, complaining that a layman can't make sense of this page, may be more apposite than it looks. If meter is something that accustomed readers of poetry respond to more or less directly, it's arguable that a simpler system of scansion has an inherent claim to legitimacy. A traditional, foot-based, "2-level" approach is easier to teach and learn than Attridge's. It merely requires an explanation that meter influences rhythm (giving rise to "promoted stresses," though the term is used differently by Attridge and the current Scansion page), and that rhythm influences the realization of meter (giving rise to common foot-substitutions, of which it's possible to supply quite a short list).

I don't have a good solution to this problem. Naturally I think the whole thing could be redone (and simplified) by using my own approach to scansion, but from a larger perspective this doesn't help at all. There is no consensus on the fundamental questions about meter in poetry, and therefore none on scansion.

By the way, more discussion of relevant points is buried in the collapsed sections of:

Village Explainer (talk) 18:32, 4 July 2013 (UTC)

Simplification is not a solution
The earlier discussion Village Explainer references applied to the Poetry Project Scansion Style Sheet. There, the topic of scansion is necessarily treated prescriptively: either there is a house style or anything goes. There, simplicity might be a virtue (I believe I could have further simplified it by being more rigidly prescriptive... I chose not to). But this article must acknowledge the irritating multiplicity of scansion conceptions, ideally including some hints at least of their historical and logical relations (as I have tried to do). It might be reasonable to provide a simplified explanation in the lead or first section for the benefit of readers like my anonymous detractor, but after all, what form should this section take?
Village Explainer's accusation of throrough-going bias is quite serious. I do not claim to have gotten the balance exactly right, but I have striven for fairness and broad acceptability. It seems to me that the article must have some frame of reference; attempting to write it in the metrically agnostic vein of Alan Holder would be -- in my view -- a joke. I have used what I believe to be the frame of reference most neutral, broadly acceptable to scholars, and inimical to the fewest points of view. Let me raise a ghost for a little help...
"T. V. F. Brogan's book on four centuries of English versification theory is massive in size and importance. ... It should also invite the writing of books which propound a general theory of meter perhaps one of them by Brogan himself. After this survey of 6,000 pieces of scholarship on versification, surely nobody in the world is better prepared to make a positive contribution to unifying this field and putting it on a solid footing of logic for the first time in the history of scholarship." (Wesling & Bollobás 1983, pp 58-59) Brogan was subsequently the primary editor of the 3rd edition of the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics the standard reference of its type. He has engaged with and criticized literally all conceptions of meter. He did not produce a metrical unified field theory, but in the earlier-mentioned book he writes:
"There [in the iambic pentameter line] ... the meter comprises a sequence of ten positions, traditionally called "stresses" and "unstresses" though the more neutral terms "ictic" and "nonictic" are preferable, i.e.
N I N I N I N I N I. ...
Traditional metrical analysis chose to interpret the ten-member N-I sequence as a sequence of five N-I units, feet, but this approach has some unpleasant consequences and is now being generally reconsidered." (Brogan 1981, pp 319-20)
This was published before Derek Attridge's book, showing that the neutral term "ictus" should not be construed as a narrow bias in favor of Attridgean scansion. Indeed, I have preferred the term "ictus" over Attridge's more comprehensible "beat" in an attempt to keep the article more broadly applicable. Ictus is (pace VE) central, not just to Attridgean scansion, but also to Generative metrics, statistical metrics (e.g. Tarlinskaja), and temporal metrics. In fact (as suggested by Brogan) ictus is not in itself incompatible with foot scansion; it seems to me that any foot scanner who acknowledges many levels of stress in the language ("rhythm"), and summarizes them using feet which contain 1 and only 1 marked stress ("meter") -- McAuley is an example -- are using the concept of ictus whether they call it that or not. As I've attempted to suggest in the article, "ictus" is indeed conceived somewhat differently by different metrists, but the concept of something like "a metrically prominent position, correlated with but not identical to stress" is -- I argue -- vital to most conceptions of English meter, and therefore most systems of scansion.
What to do?
  • As suggested above, a simplified explanation could be prefixed, not unlike that in Iambic pentameter. If it is generally agreed that foot scansion is currently given short shrift, this may be an argument that the simple introduction should comprise an explanation of (some species of) foot scansion. But don't let's assume that foot scansion is in itself "simple" or "natural"; Derek Attridge (ironically, considering some of the above accusations) has criticized foot scansion as elitist, saying "It has been said of the most traditional method of analyzing meter -- in terms of 'feet' -- that it works only for those who already know what is going on and are able to make the vague gestures which others who also know what is going on can understand." (1995, xix) I'm not saying he's right; I'm saying that what is "simple" or "natural" may be in eye of the beholder.
  • Is my treatment of ictus too Attridge-centric? If so, it should be revised. Ictus is bigger than Attridge.
  • Does my treatment of ictus presume too much authority? If so, it might be moved to before the rhythmi-metrical section to reduce its total impact -- though I feel that stating definitions and premises at the outset is preferable, and that ictus contributes to the 2-3-4 sections as well.
Phil wink (talk) 00:29, 14 July 2013 (UTC)
Some responses from Village Explainer
I have no interest in "detracting" or "accusing," and I have no stake in being anonymous (though I don't know Phil_wink's real-world name either). I'm Charles Hartman. Wikipedia doesn't have a page on me, but my c.v. is available at [1]
  • "My anonymous detractor" is IP, of the "irascible note". Editors with accounts are not considered anonymous, only IPs. Sorry for the confusion. Phil wink (talk) 15:36, 15 July 2013 (UTC)
Appealing to Terry Brogan's authority is plausible, except that there are so many other authorities. For example, Wimsatt & Beardsley's "The Concept of Meter: An Exercise in Abstraction," from way back in 1959, continues to play a part in many current discussions. The current Fourth Edition of The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics retains many of Brogan's Third Edition entries in part, but the editors solicited revisions of most of them—because these discussions never stop.
I make, and have made, no accusation of bad faith. Do I claim that the page as it currently stands is "biased"? Well, yes and no. The page represents a real effort to present the basic issues of scansion in an even-handed way. I don't impugn the efforts of Phil_wink (and a few others) in any way, let alone their motives. But on the other hand, "bias" of some kind may be unavoidable. There is no account of scansion—I think there can be none—that does not start from one set of assumptions in preference to another set of assumptions. (Feet exist, feet don't exist, feet are all-important, feet are an incidental convenience… Meter and rhythm are categorically opposed, form a continuum, need not be distinguished… And so on.)
My earlier response probably inappropriately emphasized my doubts about "ictus." The harshest objection to "ictus" is that we don't need it; "stress" will do, if understood loosely enough (and a loose understanding is arguably the most appropriate one). I'm not convinced that the distinction is necessary, but in itself it does no harm.
I agree that beginning the discussion with an acknowledgement of the traditional foot-based method of scansion would be useful.
Village Explainer (talk) 14:40, 15 July 2013 (UTC)

For WikiProject Literature and Linguistics editors - I can't find the "Reason" page.

I would rate this section as higher than "mid-importance" for English Literature.

The page needs to be re-written for the layman (i.e. the student of poetry, of which there are many) - either totally by an expert, or by the original writer with judicious attention to its accessibility.

To wit, this holds primarily because it does not follow a careful sequence of introducing its terms. The "Overview" is too dense, introduces many terms without definition (even "iambic pentameter"), and should provide examples (e.g. of "stresses" and "pulses or beats").

That trend continues.

If the page is to be amended, definitions and arguments such as those exhibited in the talk page above can be noted as controversies.

Please do so relatively quickly, although we as readers appreciate that you have limited resources!

If you would like a recommendation to an expert, Derek Attridge is able to marshal very difficult concepts quite clearly for the layman.


Dinogaletti (talk) 07:37, 7 November 2013 (UTC)

  1. ^ Brogan 1981, p x.
  2. ^ Hollander 1975, p viii.
  3. ^ Noon, CJ (2005). Western Wind: An Introduction to Poetry (5th ed.). 1221 Avenue of the Americas, NewYork, NY 10020: McGraw-Hill. pp. 203 to 223. ISBN 978-0-07-281959-5.  More than one of |author= and |last= specified (help)