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176 Reviews students with excellent translations of important material concerning the 'Norman' kingdom of Sicily. Elizabeth Freeman School of Classics and History University ofTasmania Huisman, Rosemary, The Written Poem: Semiotic Conventions from Old to Modern English, London and N e w York, Cassell, 1998; board; pp. viii, 184; R R P £45; ISBN 0304339997. [Distributed in Australia by Allen and Unwin. Paperbound edition from Continuum Publishing Group, ISBN 0304707341.] 'The visual text-as-object for poetic discourse is not a result of print c 101): this might be understood as the refrain of The Written Poem, Rosemary Huisman's research into written poetic discourse in English is admirably interdisciplinary and brings together a number of specialisms. Most notably, the book works across material from Old English to electronic writing practice, asking how the 'seen poem' works as a semiotic. She must bring to bear on this 'panoramic ambition' (p. 2) an interest in historically specific conditions of meaning-making viewed through a number of theoretical frames. A primary debt is acknowledged to M . A. K. Halliday's systemic functional linguistics in order to model 'talking about texts as social practices' (p. 3). Chapters T w o to Five deal with specific kinds of semiosis. Juri Lotman's The Structure ofthe Artistic Text, especially his work on the relationship ofpoetr to prose, is read with a new inflection. His semiotic theory is understood not as the Structuralist model that his vocabulary might suggest but as a recognisably 'post-structuralist positioning', effectively deconstructing an apparent dichotomy of prose and verse (see p. 20). Using Lotman Huisman can ask us to consider both the 'objective' formal features of a text and the context in which we read it: 'For me, this reader of this text, such and such is meaningful now' (p. 19). In fact the whole book is structured around the historicising of 'objective features' (such as the lineation ofpoetic discourse), asking how these might have particular meanings as social practices. Basil Bernstein's 'modeling of social context' informs Huisman's analysis of 'the rules of discursive order that are realised by writers' (p. 14) at different historical moments (see e.g. Chapter Six, 'The Origin of the English Line, 1100-1300', Chapter Seven, 'The Transition Reviews 111 to a Literate Subject, 1500-1800'), and in Chapter Eight she explores what the 'comparable rules' for reading might be ('The Reading Subject and the Writing Subject 1800-1990'). These chapters in particular I found extremely interesting. Huisman started out from an interest in twentieth-century writing and reading protocols for poetic discourse and it is another exciting feature of her book that she can extend her thinking into the context of the discourse of postmodem convergence and remediation that sometimes dominates new media practices. In this field there is a tendency to look 'back' to the aesthetics of modernism as precursors. Huisman's book makes that gesture seem hardly more than a glance. The Written Poem is a book I would recommend to many different constituencies. It is so efficiently mapped out that the reader knows precisely where she is in relation to the main issues at any one moment, but she can dip in and out of chapters, following particular threads and interests, without feeling that the discussion has continued on behind her back. The range of examples and their elaboration is excellent. I found particularly admirable the degree to which Huisman takes nothing for granted, asks herself difficult questions ('what is the origin and development of the line in English poetry? And what kinds of semiosis, or meaning-making, have been associated with the line, or with spatial arrangement on the page generally?', p. 2 andpassim), and sets about developing arigorousbut flexible methodology that will help her examine the culturally specific nature of our assumptions. Graduate students should consult this work as an epitome of how to conduct 'original research' and make a 'significant contribution to knowledge'. If this makes The Written Poem sound too much like a dissertation then I should dispel any misconception; the theoretical framing, the interdisciplinary techniques and the otherwise technical material are mediated by a voice that speaks with vigour and clarity. This is a work...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1832-8334
Print ISSN
0313-6221
Pages
pp. 176-177
Launched on MUSE
2013-04-03
Open Access
No
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