Guilty grammar: See-saw perspective and morality in a poem by E.E. Cummings

Louise Nuttall

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The following is a poem published in 1963 by the American poet E.E. Cummings:

Me up at does

out of the floor

quietly Stare

a poisoned mouse

still who alive

is asking What

have i done that

You wouldn’t have

(Cummings 2016: 828)

For stylisticians, the poetry of E.E. Cummings offers an interesting case study for showcasing the core theoretical and practical underpinnings of stylistics. Often chosen as examples for pedagogical demonstrations of stylistic analysis in student textbooks and teacher handbooks (e.g. Leech 1969; Short 1996; Simpson 2004; Jeffries and McIntyre 2010; McIntyre and Jeffries 2017), Cummings’s poems exhibit a distinctive, unconventional style, the grammatical makeup of which contributes significantly to their interpretation. In explanations of its language, Cummings’s poetry has seen the application of a number of frameworks, from transformational-generative grammar (Fairley 1975) and SPOCA grammar (Short 2005) to cognitive linguistic models of knowledge schemas and metaphor (Van Peer 1987; Burke 2007). For those working at the forefront of stylistics, Cummings’s poetry has offered ‘an ideal test case for the applicability of newly developed linguistic theories’ (Van Peer 1987: 597)....
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNew Directions in Cognitive Grammar and Style
EditorsMarcello Giovanelli, Chloe Harrison, Louise Nuttall
PublisherBloomsbury Academic
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781350111134, 9781350111127, 9781350111141
ISBN (Print)9781350111110, 9781350196933
Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2020

Publication series

NameAdvances in Stylistics
PublisherBloomsbury Academic

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