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The metres of 'Dover Beach'

Fabb, Nigel A.J. (2002) The metres of 'Dover Beach'. Language and Literature, 11 (2). pp. 99-117. ISSN 0963-9470

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Abstract

'Dover Beach' is an iambic text which has four different lengths of line. I apply the Bracketed Grid theory of metrical form to the text and show that the four lengths of line can all be generated by a variant form of the iambic pentameter rules, and thus are all related at a more abstract level. I then show that the text is organized in a way which, in relevance theoretic terms, implicates that it is iambic pentameter in the conventional sense, and that this implicated form partially competes with the determinate metrical form generated by the metrical rules. I conclude that the possibility of competition between two distinct kinds of literary form, as illustrated by 'Dover Beach', can be a characteristic source of complexity in a literary text.