Poetic Licenses

This project investigates the processing effects of linguistic deviations in poetry and, specifically, their contribution to aesthetic evaluation. Formal and semantic/conceptual detours from normal language use seem to typify poetry to such an extent that, historically, formalist approaches to poetic language often emphasized deviation from the norm—and the ensuing processing difficulties—as a defining property of poetic language use. (Shklovsky, 1916; Mukarovsky, 1932). The Jakobsonian approach (Jakobson, 1960), on the other hand, identifies the (partially) systematic recurrence of stimulus features as the central property of poeticity.

Using the methodology of psycholinguistics, our research project aims to investigate the interplay of deviation (unexpectedness) and recurrence (predictability) in poetic text processing. We focus on morphosyntactic deviations like non-canonical or ungrammatical word order variants or morphological archaisms, and their interactions with formal poetic schemata like meter and rhyme. In addition to these stimulus characteristics, we investigate the role of readers’ expectations in the processing of literary texts.