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Prosody in England and Elsewhere: A Comparative Approach [Paperback]

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Item description for Prosody in England and Elsewhere: A Comparative Approach by Leonardo Malcovati...

An excellent book for the study of poetic devices, specifically prosody; written for the general reader yet a must for the scholar's bookshelf.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   178
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.9" Width: 6.38" Height: 0.55"
Weight:   0.66 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Apr 5, 2006
Publisher   Gival Press, LLC
ISBN  192858926X  
ISBN13  9781928589266  

Availability  74 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 25, 2016 01:28.
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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Poetry > General
2Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Education > Reference > Reference
3Books > Subjects > Reference > Writing > Writing

Reviews - What do customers think about Prosody in England and Elsewhere: A Comparative Approach?

Good, but more about elsewhere than England  Feb 21, 2007
I have just finished Malcovati's "Prosody in England and Elsewhere: A Comparative Approach." It is a thin volume, at 159 pages, and was reasonably priced.

Malcovati is an Italian engineer who works as a journalist for an English magazine. He has studied comparative literature (poetry) extensively and is apparantly an authority on medieval troubadour and Provençal poetry.

He comes across as a curmudgeon who has next to nothing good to say about anyone or anything, but he does so in a funny manner which one reviewer has called "irreverant and amusing." For example, here is what he has to say about closed verse forms and the sonnet in particular:

"We shall divide verse forms into two groups; the first one we shall treat, closed forms, includes those that have a fixed number of stanzas and lines, or one that varies within a very narrow range. Some of these forms, such as the sonnet, were fashionable once and a few, such as the haiku, still are but, given the general difficulty in using them, and the general incompetence of modern poets, most of these schemes are thorougly obsolete...


Absolutely the most common and abused form of all, the sonnet has been plaguing Italian poetry since the thirteenth century, and has rapidly invaded, with little variations, all Europe. The sonnet uniquely fits corny themes, as its fourteen lines allow the writer to be bombastic, but fall just short of letting him realise he's making a fool of himself. In spite of that, the form has been so popular that thousands of good sonnets exist, and several great ones as well. None of them, of course, deals with love."

He subtitles his book "A Comparative Approach" and it is; therein lies its strength. He discusses in particular detail the various forms of syllabic versification: the Italian endecasillabo, Gallic decasyllable, and the Alexandrine in both its French and Spanish incarnations. He introduces the very important concept of the "metrical syllable," which is the sine qua non for understanding syllablic versification.

The particular strengths of the book are the discussion of syllabic versification, types of rhyme and its classification scheme of the various verse and stanza forms. Classifying the open forms by the way the rhymes cross from one stanza to the next is particularly interesting and he introduces stanza theory in a very approachable and systematic way. I now understand several concepts I didn't even know existed and can classify forms into coblas continuadas, coblas capcaudatas, coblas unissonantis (all technical terms derived from Provençal and used by stanza theorists) and rime en kyrielle.

There is a brief chapter on Old Norse versification followed by one on Old English accentual verse. These are fairly detailed, despite their brevity.

The book finishes with a discussion of phonetic rhetoric and other advanced poetic devices and discusses iteratio, homoeoprophon, paragram and lipogram.

The book's strength is in its systematic arrangement and classification (which is more logical than Turco's) of the various forms and its use of English, French, Provençal, Italian, Old Norse and Spanish examples to illustrate each. These are accompanied by unmetered, unrhyming translations into modern English.

The book's weakness is in its discussion of the various English metrical feet and of English accentual-syllabic verse in general, but particularly the iambic pentameter line. His dismissal of the concepts of metrical promotion and even of the existance of verse feet is--I think--tongue-in-cheek and marked by a distinct chauvinism toward syllabic versification. Someone who is very versed in metrics and in the different theories of scansion will find his comparison of certain iambic pentameter lines to endecasillabo a maiore and endecasillabo a minore to be thought provoking. Someone well versed in metrics and familiar with the prosodies of Romance languages will simply laugh off what he's saying about English prosodic systems as the tongue-in-cheek ranting of an Italian curmudgeon with an axe to grind. But a beginner won't.

The beginner is strongly advised to disregard everything Malcovati says about iambic pentameter and to read Timothy Steele's "All the Fun's in How You Say a Thing" instead.

I recommend this book to a poet or poetry reader who has a good grounding in English accentual-syllabic prosody but desires to learn of other European prosodic systems, the various forms, stanza theory and advanced phonetic techniques in more depth.

I actually enjoyed the book immensely. It reads well and, though it contains technical terminology, it isn't bogged down by academic discussion or excessive use of jargon. It truly was a quick read and one I'll reread in the future as the need or desire arises.
Prosody and Poetry  Jul 6, 2006
I got this book as a present, and since I have tried to learn a little about poetry, it has been a really good one. I must admit that I'm not normally the type who quotes Rilke, or write my own poems to express myself, but it occurred to me that I might be missing something. This book can be used on many different levels: As a thorough introduction to poetry and poetry forms, as a guide on how to write your own poetry, and as a sort of poetry dictionary. I suppose people more acquainted with poetry than myself, will also find it's analysis of English prosody more stunning than I was able to appreciate. I started out by just reading it from cover to cover and it is not what I feared a book like that would be. It's actually funny, but also technical. It practically goes through poetic forms through history that have had influence on English poetry. It is very systematic, starting with versification and then rhyming. Everything is explained really well, with both usage and what it is precisely. There are actual examples from "real" poets after almost all the forms and techniques (the non-English with translations). In spite of knowing very little, there are so many forms I had heard of, but never really knew what where about, that I know find myself even trying to write. For example limericks, sonnets, Haikus, Odes and Ballads. There are just so many forms, that it would be easy to loose overview, had they not been so logically arranged, with many examples. After each chapter there's a page with suggested further reading on the subject, which I'm sure will be helpful to those who want an even more in dept analysis. One of the main things I have got out of reading this book is just how strict the forms really are, and how many fascinating ways of writing poetry there are. It's a whole world on it's own, so many ways of creating a rythm and feeling to a poem. I feel like I understand poetry much better after having read this, and should I forget, or want to write a limmerick or and ode, it's a very handy and easy to look up. I believe it's good to know how things are constructed in order to appreciate them fully. This is, I believe, the only guide I will need for this, I'm ready to take on poetry.
There's also the show-off effect: when I got this book, I didn't even know what prosody meant, now I even know what a villanelle or a virtual rhyme is. I you want to know prosody and poetry, do yourself a favour, and buy this book

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