"To measure is all we know": William Carlos Williams and the science of measurement

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Abstract

Critics have routinely voiced their frustrations with William Carlos Williams's term 'measure'. But from the late 1930s onwards, he compared his idea of 'measure' to the science of measurement. This article suggests, firstly, that to fully appreciate Williams's measure, one must understand how the science of measurement frequently appeared in the vocabulary of a variety of contemporaneous critics of poetry. Secondly, by close reading Williams's long poem Paterson (1963), it suggests that by rejecting the term rhythm and reprising measure, Williams was attempting to define the knowledge practices proper to poetry in an era where to measure was to know.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)473-493
Number of pages21
JournalModernism/Modernity
Volume30
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023

Keywords

  • Poetics
  • Modernism
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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