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Prosody and the theory of affect in the 18th century (306)

How to compose lyric poetry: Debates on metre and affect in 18th century German literature.

Since Johann Christoph Gottsched’s Versuch einer Critischen Dichtkunst (1730) there has been a focus on euphony in 18th century German literature. Gottsched states that rhythm and metre have "such an amazing force and sometimes even work wonders"; to develop such a highly affective poetic speech, German literature follows Greek and Latin metre.

More detailed arguments can be found in the debates that follow in the mid- and late-18th century, ranging from attempts at "prosodic key characteristics" to broad notes on such qualities as iambic gravity, trochaic playfulness or the striking sonority of choriambs. We will collect the 18th century debates on prosody and the theory of affect, analyze the constitutive positions and tie them in with neuroscientific research on emotional prosody.

By reconditioning the disquisitions, essays, recensions, and even scattered annotations on 18th century "affective prosody" we will clarify one of the specifically aesthetic aspects inherent in artistic poetics of affect.


Korten, L., Wißmann, F., Stenger, J., Menninghaus, W. (2011). Metrum, Rhythmus, Melodie. ›Der Maiabend‹ von Johann Heinrich Voß und Fanny Hensel. Poetica 43. 81-102.

Korten, L. (2010). »Wälzen und Rollen«. Goethes jambische Trimeter. Goethe-Jahrbuch 127. 57-69.