In the late eighteenth century, British print culture took a diagrammatic and accentual turn. In graphs of emphasis and tonal inflection, in signs for indicating poetic stress, and in tabulations of punctuation, elocutionists, grammarians, and prosodists deployed new typographic marks and measures to represent English speech on the page. At the same time, cartographers and travel writers published reconfigurations of landscape on large-scale topographical maps, in geometric surveys, and in guidebooks that increasingly featured charts and diagrams. Within these diverse fields of print, blank verse was employed as illustration and index, directing attention to newly discovered features of British speech and space and helping to materialize the vocal and visual contours of the nation.
In Romantic Marks and Measures, Julia S. Carlson examines Wordsworth's poetry of "speech" and "nature" as a poetry of print, written and read in the midst of topographic and typographic experimentation and change. Investigating the notebook drafts of "The Discharged Soldier," the printer's copy of Lyrical Ballads, Lake District guidebooks, John Thelwall's scansion of The Excursion, and revisions and editions of The Prelude, she explores Wordsworth's major blank verse poems as sites of intervention—visual and graphic as well as formal and thematic—in cultural contests to represent Britain, on the page, as a shared landscape and language community.
"Throughout the book, Carlson permits us to see and hear Wordsworth's poetry in exciting new ways, through sensitive close-readings and rigorous research into a wealth of historical sources. Her work is remarkable not only for the important contributions she makes to studies of Romantic print culture, but also for her uncovering of cartography as a site of visual imagination and playful meaningmaking, not just of disciplined, orderly knowledge. Carlson's study of Wordsworth's cartographical imagination is a nuanced exploration of how this visual experimentation shapes his poetic lines. She invigorates the study of historical prosody in particular, offering an important new spatial dimension to how Wordsworth marked and measured the sounds and shapes of his verse."—The British Society for Literature and Science
"[T]his challenging and valuable book provides [an] abundance of insights, large and small. Carlson's work is an important and original contribution to our understanding of a pervasive element of the culture within which Wordsworth's poetic development and reception took place and of how complex practices of 'marking and measuring' helped shape significant aspects of his poetic achievement."—The Coleridge Bulletin
"With its fascinating blend of poetics, historical prosody, and media history, Romantic Marks and Measures transforms the landscape of Romantic studies. Julia Carlson breaks new ground as she traces Wordsworth's poetic response to contemporary cartographers' efforts to inscribe the nation's terrain onto two-dimensional maps and contemporary elocutionists' efforts to draw sound out of books' printed pages. Scholars of Romantic poetry-and scholars of print culture more generally-will be grateful for the erudition, rigor, and stylistic flair of this book."—Deidre Lynch, Harvard University
"A very fine, erudite, and useful book. Julia S. Carlson offers an acute, sustained reading of Wordsworth with a double focus by examining the material features of Wordsworth's verse in the peculiar context of the print culture of his time together with a consideration of the importance of maps for the conception, visualization, and writing of locales and the nation. The two reinforce each other in revelatory ways."—Ian Balfour, York University, Toronto
"Romantic Marks and Measures is an unusually original and solid piece of scholarship-a significant intervention in British Romantic literary studies and in the study of print culture more generally. Julia S. Carlson is an exceptional writer, communicating a challenging and multifaceted argument through clear, vivid, and expressive prose."—Joshua Wilner, The Graduate Center, CUNY
- Winner of the 2017 British Association for Romantic Studies First Book Prize