Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Archive for April 21st, 2013

I.A. Richards on rhythm and surprise

leave a comment »

I.A. Richards

Rhythm and its specialized form, metre, depend upon repetition, and expectancy. Equally where what is expected recurs and where it fails, all rhythmical and metrical effects spring from anticipation. As a rule this anticipation is unconscious…Just as the eye reading print unconsciously expects the spelling to be as usual, and the fount of type to remain the same, so the mind after reading a line or two of verse, or half a sentence of prose, prepares itself ahead for any one of a number of possible sequences, at the same time negatively incapacitating itself for others. The effect produced by what actually follows depends very closely upon this unconscious preparation and consists largely of the further twist which it gives to expectancy…

This texture of expectations, satisfactions, disappointments, surprisals, which the sequence of syllables brings about, is rhythm. And the sound of word comes to its full power only through rhythm. Evidently there can be no surprise and no disappointments unless there is expectation and most rhythms perhaps are made up as much of disappointments and postponements and surprises and betrayals as of simple, straightforward satisfactions. Hence the rapidity with which too simple rhythms, those which are too easily “seen through,” grow cloying or insipid unless hypnoidal states intervene, as with much primitive music and dancing and often with metre.

I.A. Richards, Rhythm and Metre for Literary Criticism

Written by nevalalee

April 21, 2013 at 9:50 am

%d bloggers like this: