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A Connectionist Model of Poetic Meter

A Connectionist Model of Poetic Meter

Abstract. Traditional analyses of meter are hampered by their inability to image the interaction of various elements which affect the stress patterns of a line of poetry or provide a system of notation fully amenable to computational analysis. To solve these problems, the connectionist models of James McClelland and David Rumelhart in Explorations in Parallel Distributed Processing (1988) are applied to the analysis of English poetic meter. The model graphically illustrates the dynamics of a poetic line and incorporates a number of features associated with the actual oral performance of a poetic text, while providing a notational system that allows mathematical analyses of poetic meter.

One of the salient features of poetry is its metrical structure. Many poets use regular patterns of stress to achieve specific aesthetic effects; readers expect such patterns and foreground them in their oral interpretations of the poems, whether they be read aloud or subvocally. Consider the opening line to Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey": "Five years have past; five summers, with the length . . ." According to traditional "rules" of scansion, this iambic pentameter line would receive a heightened stress on the alternate even numbered syllables years, past, sum-, with, and length. Yet the repetition of the adjective five calls for some degree of emphasis upon each occurrence of the word, even though it is found in an unstressed position. But how much emphasis? More than the "stressed" with? More than years? Is the stress equal in both uses of five? And where does the stress or emphasis come from--from our act of interpretation or from an intonation pattern generated by the syntax?
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