Jason David Hall, ““Popular Prosody: Spectacle and the Politics of Victorian Versification”” (pp. 222––249)
In July of 1845 a Somerset man named John Clark exhibited an invention called the Eureka, ““a machine for making Latin verses,”” at the Egyptian Hall in London. This midcentury spectacle was, I argue, much more than a showplace diversion; rather, it was at once the uncanny technological embodiment and a parodic indictment of the Victorian science of prosody, and it functioned, moreover, as an interactive discursive site where debates about the function of prosody as part of a pedagogical model in the universities and, more specifically, the public schools became immediately visible and accessible to a popular and reform-minded audience. As the Latin hexameters that it was capable of ““grinding out”” were transcribed, explicated, and judged in the improving pages of popular print media, the Eureka figured briefly as the material signifier of an education-reform agenda that was, by and large, hostile to the centrality of prosody in Victorian pedagogy.
- 2007 by The Regents of the University of California