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Mechanized Metrics: From Verse Science to Laboratory Prosody, 1880-1918

Jason Hall, University of Exeter

From roughly the 1880s, a methodical verse 'science' was beginning to assert itself. Gripped by the thought of articulating an objective, fact-based metrics, verse scientists brought to bear on the traditional verse line the principles of observation and later full-blown experimental practices-not to mention a curious array of instrumentation. By the turn of the century, metrical verse was being subjected to a rigorous measurement regime, which employed techniques and apparatus derived from the new disciplines of experimental physiology and psychology. Proponents of this newly mechanized metrics pitched themselves enthusiastically into the turn-of-the-century prosody fray, believing they could resolve, once and for all, some of the fundamental dilemmas of nineteenth-century versification: namely, the relationship between 'embodied' rhythm and 'abstract' metre.
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