Scansion

Literary/ Cultural Context Essay

Michael D. Hurley (University of Cambridge)
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  • The Literary Encyclopedia. WORLD HISTORY AND IDEAS: A CROSS-CULTURAL VOLUME.

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Scansion is an analytical process that illustrates the extent to which a poem's normative rhythmical patterning – its metre – is realized in its individual lines. All language is rhythmical; what makes metrical different from non-metrical language is not therefore that metrical language has rhythm, but that its rhythm is marked by a phonological feature (stress, or pitch or length) that recurs in predictable

patterns

: it is this patterning that defines a poem's metre, and which is the object of interest in scansion. Analysis of rhythm on its own terms, as something

sui generis

, without a sense of how that rhythm might be part of (or depart from) a given poem's metre is not scansion, but “phrasing”. This distinction is fundamental.

Despite its reputation for being fiendishly

4326 words

Citation: Hurley, Michael D.. "Scansion". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 08 September 2008 [https://www.litencyc.com/php/stopics.php?rec=true&UID=986, accessed 20 May 2024.]

986 Scansion 2 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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