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Poetic Language

Theory and Practice from the Renaissance to the Present

Tom Jones

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The first study of poetic language from a historical and philosophical perspective

In a series of 12 chapters, exemplary poems - by Walter Ralegh, John Milton,William Cowper, William Wordsworth, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Wallace Stevens, Ezra Pound, Frank O'Hara, Robert Creeley, W. S. Graham, Tom Raworth, Denise Riley and Thomas A. Clark - are read alongside theoretical discussions of poetic language.

The discussions provide a jargon-free account of a wide range of historical and contemporary schools of thought about poetic language, and an organised, coherent critique of those schools (including analytical philosophy, cognitive poetics, structuralism and post-structuralism). Via close readings of poems from 1600 to the present readers are taken through a wide range of styles including modernist, experimental and innovative poetries. Paired chapters within a chronological structure allow lecturers and students to approach the material in a variety of ways (by individual chapters, paired historical periods) that are appropriate to different courses.

Key Features:

  • Surveys a variety of linguistic and philosophical approaches to poetic language: analytical, cognitive, post-structuralist, pragmatic
  • Provides readings of complete poems and places those readings within the wider context of each poet's work
  • Combines theory and practice
  • Includes a Glossary, Notes on Poets and Suggested Further Reading 

About the Author

Tom Jones teaches English at the University of St Andrews, specialising in eighteenth-century literature and philosophy, and poetic theory and practice. He is the author of Pope and Berkeley: The Language of Poetry and Philosophy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005) and essays on Pope, Berkeley, eighteenth-century philosophies of language, and contemporary poetry and poetics.


Fully and carefully documented, this study builds on the work of scholars such as Jan Mukarovsky, Derek Attridge, and Julia Kristeva. Recommended.
- D.D. Cummings, University of Wisconsin, Parkside, Choice

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