Meredith Martin Wins the 2012 MLA Prize for a First Book

Meredith MartinThe Rise and Fall of Meter: Poetry and English National Culture, 1860–1930
Winner of the 2012 MLA Prize for a First Book, Modern Language Association

Meredith Martin’s The Rise and Fall of Meter is an impressive, elegant work that intervenes in old and new literary histories alike. This book traces the surprisingly polemical history of the standardization of English prosody. Bringing to light new archival materials, the work excavates the full turbulence and excitement of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century debates about English verse rhythms. Complex, concise, and clear, Martin’s book deftly weaves together cultural analysis; the study of language, form, and sound; and literary history. With a rich critical eclecticism, the book reframes and reanimates our understanding of the history of poetry and poetics. The result is an intriguing story, as relevant to the new aesthetics as it is to older historical and cultural studies. Martin’s work reminds us that at its best, great scholarship has much in common with great storytelling. To read more, click here.

http://press.princeton.edu/images/k9715.gif The Rise and Fall of Meter tells the unknown story of English meter from the late eighteenth century until just after World War I. Uncovering a vast and unexplored archive in the history of poetics, Meredith Martin shows that the history of prosody is tied to the ways Victorian England argued about its national identity. Gerard Manley Hopkins, Coventry Patmore, and Robert Bridges used meter to negotiate their relationship to England and the English language; George Saintsbury, Matthew Arnold, and Henry Newbolt worried about the rise of one metrical model among multiple competitors. The pressure to conform to a stable model, however, produced reactionary misunderstandings of English meter and the culture it stood for. This unstable relationship to poetic form influenced the prose and poems of Robert Graves, Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, W. B. Yeats, Ezra Pound, and Alice Meynell. A significant intervention in literary history, this book argues that our contemporary understanding of the rise of modernist poetic form was crucially bound to narratives of English national culture.

Meredith Martin is associate professor of English at Princeton University.