Polity and Poetics: Strategic Uses of the Poem in Public Language

By Tom Clark and Sasha Henriss-Anderssen.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Arising from an ongoing project of research into the poetic structures and modalities of contemporary public language, this paper explores those instances where public figures perform or quote from poems to augment or illustrate the meaning of their remarks. Such a practice must somehow reflect performers’ understandings of the scope for poetic function in public language, since it is a conscious strategy in their communications. On the other hand, the sense of a ‘poetic turn’ (a turning towards poetry and away from not-poetry) reflects a sense that the poetic is somehow alien to regular or mundane public language.

This paper takes up themes and theoretical frameworks covered in several earlier papers the author has presented to New Directions in the Humanities conferences. Unlike those earlier papers, it expressly focuses on particular uses of poems within clearly political contexts. It will show that the public speaker’s consciousness of the poetics of poetry is inseparable from her or his poetics of public language. Its salient finding is that parliamentary speakers’ use of poems itself constitutes a poetic formula within the terms of the poetic-rhetorical system of parliamentary debate.

Keywords: Public Language, Political Rhetoric, Poetics, Poem

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 8, Issue 7, pp.105-112. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 588.802KB).

Dr. Tom Clark

Senior Lecturer, School of Communication and the Arts, Victoria University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Tom Clark has worked in a range of fields, including political advisory roles and studies in medieval Germanic poetry. He completed his PhD in the Department of English at the University of Sydney, awarded in 2003, which comprised a study of irony in the Old English poem Beowulf. He has published numerous refereed articles on his current project - the poetics of public language - as well as on higher education policy, and a monograph version of his PhD thesis. He is currently writing a book on problems of truthfulness and poetry in public language.

Sasha Henriss-Anderssen

Research Project Officer, School of Communication and the Arts, Victoria University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Sasha Henriss-Anderssen is a student of Literary Studies at Victoria University. She is a staff collaborator on a research project examining the poetics of contemporary public language.

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