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How to Kill Time: Emily Dickinson and Comparative Indo-European Poetics

By Cynthia L. Hallen


at the time of a great philological renaissance that enriched the field of poetics and engendered the field of linguistics. In his book How to Kill a Dragon, Calvert Watkins documents how nineteenth-century scholars such as Franz Bopp (1791-1867) and Antoine Meillet (1866-1936) developed a new comparative philology. Watkins presents comparative Indo-European poetics as “a linguistic approach to the form, nature, and function of poetic language and archaic literature among a variety of ancient Indo-European peoples ” (Watkins, 1995: 6). He uses a philological approach to establish a comparative historical poetics for ancient texts in the Indo-European language family. His method includes a close reading and a detailed comparison of Indo-European (IE) works in the Anatolian, Celtic, Germanic, Greek, Indic, Iranian, and Italic subgroups. With a nod to Roman Jakobson (1896-1982), Watkins defines poetics as the branch of linguistics that deals with the “scientific study of ‘artistic ’ language ” (Watkins, 1995: 6). Specifically, Watkins addresses the ability of poets to effect the real world by composing truth formulas in metrical and stylistic frames that “preserve language across time ” (Watkins, 1995: vii, 68). He examines the technique of the IE poet in terms of three interdependent areas

Year: 2014
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