Did a Decadent Metre Exist at the Fin de Siècle?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


Defining and codifying a national metre for England occupied many poets and prosodists during the last decades of the nineteenth and the first decades of the twentieth century, and it is no coincidence that these attempts to codify a national metre were concurrent with the decadent or symbolist ‘movements’ that tended towards the perceived ‘foreignness’ of French or Classical metres. A number of factors brought about the desire for a stable narrative of English metre’s history and future, among them the development of phonetics, the teaching of English as the national literary language in the newly state-funded schools, the need to educate and civilize the working class and colonial schoolchildren (and the belief that English poetry could do just that),1 and the waning of the Classical languages as the marker of the educated elite.2 As Linda Dowling has argued, English literary decadence emerged as a result of Romantic-era philology, stimulating anxiety and insecurity about English literature’s role in promoting English culture. The rise of comparative philology and its neogrammarian programme also inspired the need to define English prosody—its pronunciation but also versifi- cation, or the way that poems were measured—for an English language that was becoming standardized via the New English Dictionaryand the advent of the International Phonetic Alphabet.3

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPalgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages19
StatePublished - 2013

Publication series

NamePalgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture
ISSN (Print)2634-6494
ISSN (Electronic)2634-6508

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Literature and Literary Theory


  • English Poetry
  • International Phonetic Alphabet
  • Longe Line
  • National Metre
  • Twelfth Century


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