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Reading Poetry: An Empirical Investigation of Formalist, Stylistic, and Conventionalist Claims

David Hanauer
Poetics Today
Vol. 19, No. 4 (Winter, 1998), pp. 565-580
Published by: Duke University Press
DOI: 10.2307/1773260
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1773260
Page Count: 16
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Reading Poetry: An Empirical Investigation of Formalist, Stylistic, and Conventionalist Claims
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Abstract

This study aims at an empirical evaluation of Formalist, Stylistic, and Conventionalist claims relating to how poetry is read. Formalist and Stylistic claims oppose Conventionalist claims in relation to the role of textual features and conventions in the reading of poetry. The former position assigns a central role to textual features; the latter, to conventions of poetry reading. To evaluate these positions a study was designed in which the graphic form, phonetic features, and external categorization of an original poem were manipulated. Eighty subjects were presented with one of the eight versions of the poem and tested on their verbatim recall of textual features. The results showed that only the graphic manipulation of the poem elicited significantly higher amounts of verbatim recall. These results were interpreted as supporting a modified Conventionalist position, in which both textual features and conventions of reading play a role in the reading of poetry.

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