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A Celebration of Books

Today's feature:

Romantic Marks and Measures: Book cover imageWordsworth's Poetry in Fields of Print

By Julia Carlson, English & Comparative Literature

In the late eighteenth century, British print culture took a diagrammatic and accentual turn. In graphs of emphasis and tonal inflection, in signs for indicating poetic stress, and in tabulations of punctuation, elocutionists, grammarians, and prosodists deployed new typographic marks and measures to represent English speech on the page. At the same time, cartographers and travel writers published reconfigurations of landscape on large-scale topographical maps, in geometric surveys, and in guidebooks that increasingly featured charts and diagrams. Within these diverse fields of print, blank verse was employed as illustration and index, directing attention to newly discovered features of British speech and space and helping to materialize the vocal and visual contours of the nation.

Julia CarsonJulia S. Carlson's new book, "Romantic Marks and Measures: Wordsworth's Poetry in Fields of Print," (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016), examines Wordsworth's poetry of "speech" and "nature" as a poetry of print, written and read in the midst of topographic and typographic experimentation and change. Investigating the notebook drafts of "The Discharged Soldier," the printer's copy of "Lyrical Ballads," Lake District guidebooks, John Thelwall's scansion of "The Excursion," and revisions and editions of "The Prelude," Carlson explores Wordsworth's major blank verse poems as sites of intervention—visual and graphic as well as formal and thematic—in cultural contests to represent Britain, on the page, as a shared landscape and language community.

Of the book, Deidre Lynch of Harvard University has said, “With its fascinating blend of poetics, historical prosody, and media history, 'Romantic Marks and Measures' transforms the landscape of Romantic studies. Julia Carlson breaks new ground as she traces Wordsworth’s poetic response to contemporary cartographers’ efforts to inscribe the nation’s terrain onto two-dimensional maps and contemporary elocutionists’ efforts to draw sound out of books’ printed pages. Scholars of Romantic poetry--and scholars of print culture more generally--will be grateful for the erudition, rigor, and stylistic flair of this book.” In review, Ian Balfour of York University has called this “a very fine, erudite, and useful book. Julia S. Carlson offers an acute, sustained reading of Wordsworth with a double focus by examining the material features of Wordsworth's verse in the peculiar context of the print culture of his time together with a consideration of the importance of maps for the conception, visualization, and writing of locales and the nation. The two reinforce each other in revelatory ways."

Romantic Marks and Measures is available through U. Penn Press as well as Amazon.

Research for this book production was funded, in part, by various awards from the Taft Research Center.

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Carlson on her newest publication.


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