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Book Reviews Julia Carlson. Romantic Marks and Measures: Wordsworth’s Poetry in Fields of Print. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016. Pp. 368 + xiv. $59.95. This is a wonderful book. It seems odd to start a review with such unmiti­ gated praise, but I am confident that readers will find much to admire here, including but not limited to its unexpected conjunctions between the de­ velopment ofblank verse and the mapping ofEngland in tourist guides and the Ordnance Survey, fine close readings of poetry keenly attuned to ef­ fects of metre and marking, a challenging connection between geograph­ ical notation and elocution, and new insights on the voicing of print in Romantic culture. And when I say readers, I do not mean just scholars of Wordsworth’s poetry. Indeed, one of the distinctive features of this book is the extension ofits appeal beyond Romanticists and literary scholars gener­ ally to those more focused on cartography, information sciences, visual graphics, and print culture generally. More, Carlson doesn’t just draw broad, metaphorical connections between these seemingly diverse fields but through her patient and minute attention to the cultural practices and epistemological affinities that unite them in fields of print, she helps to re­ veal the cognate intellectual roots of these various modes of knowledge production, all ofwhich were changing in dramatic ways during the period of her study. The book covers in formidable detail material ranging from John Mason’s 1748 writings on elocution, which introduced a new spatio­ temporal grammar for marking the printed page in relation to speech, to Matthew Arnold’s call for the restoration of shade lines to ordnance maps in 1862. But, as its subtitle indicates, its main focus is on Wordsworth’s writing, from the Lyrical Ballads and the “Discharged Soldier” fragment of 1798 to The Excursion (1814) and the Guide to the Lakes (1810; 1835) through the repeated manuscript revisions of The Prelude (1798—1850). The broader context is important, though, because Carlson notes that while Wordsworth’s poetics emphasize speech and nature, his poetry is funda­ mentally a product ofprint, with its correspondent insistence on measuring and marking landscape and language on paper. Hence her focus on the en­ tangled relationship between the guidebook genre’s enlistment of verse as an illustrative technology and the elocution movement’s attempt to attune SiR, 56 (Winter 2017) 551 552 BOOK REVIEWS pupils to the peculiarly English cadences and patterns of stress hidden within print. Both seek to navigate the challenges ofblank verse—its seem­ ingly unregulated placement of pause and stress and its frequent use of difficult enjambment—as they traced the rambles of Wordsworth’s long sentences across lines of verse and maps. Carlson argues that cartography and elocution function as overlooked domains of print whose conjunction both reveals and recalibrates what Celeste Langan and Maureen McLane call the “media situation of Romantic poetry” (qtd., 8). This will perhaps strike some readers as too wide-ranging of a claim. This reader, at least, confesses an initial sense that perhaps this was two books: one on poetry and the measurement of landscape and a second on poetry and the measure of voice. But, as the claims developed, I became convinced by the book’s insistence that the subjecting of Wordsworth’s poetry to systems of marking and measuringjoins both aspects in examples ranging from Thelwall’s elocutionary marks on The Excursion to the ex­ cerpting of Wordsworth’s poetry in Black’s Picturesque Guide to the English Lakes. Ultimately, what links these wide-ranging motifs is the way that blank verse, the mapping of landscape, and the elocution movement share an underlying project of democratic access to newly central aspects of the national imaginary, made possible by the emergent importance of a range of marks and measures applied to poetry, landscape, and elocution. As the breadth of its argument would suggest, this is a long book. The argument develops over seven chapters and an interchapter. Each chapter situates Wordsworth’s poetry as an inscriptional interaction in a conten­ tious and developing print culture. Chapters 1—3 consider how the carto­ graphic imagination uses the enlistment of excerpted blank verse to create the “Lake District...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2330-118X
Print ISSN
0039-3762
Pages
pp. 551-554
Launched on MUSE
2020-03-06
Open Access
No
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