The term ‘caesura’ (or ‘pause’) has featured in discussion of English iambic pentameter for four centuries, and yet it still lacks what the Latin hexameter or the French alexandrine have: a definition of the term that might be usefully applied in stylistic description. Despite the temptation to dismiss it as a prosodic chimera or a mere epiphenomenon of syntax, this article will investigate a rough consensus that emerged amongst 18th-century theorists and practitioners about the bisecting caesura as both a normative element of versification and an aesthetic instrument, and attempt to formalize that consensus into a taxonomy based on linguistic features that will allow the caesura to function as a feature of stylistic description and analysis, not just for the heroic couplet but for the pentameter more generally, in terms of three independent and objectively definable properties that I term ‘balance’, ‘juncture’ and ‘integration’.
|Number of pages||17|
|Journal||Language and Literature|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Aug 2019|