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Mark Z. Danielewski$
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Joe Bray and Alison Gibbons

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780719099335

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719099335.001.0001

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Only Revolutions, or, The most typical poem in world literature

Only Revolutions, or, The most typical poem in world literature

(p.141) 8 Only Revolutions, or, The most typical poem in world literature
Mark Z. Danielewski

Brian McHale

Manchester University Press

Brian McHale considers the verse form of Only Revolutions, noting that ‘novel or not, Only Revolutions is certainly a narrative text’, and claiming that this aligns it with the mainstream of poetry world-wide. Following Victor Shklovsky’s claim that Tristram Shandy is the most typical novel in world literature, McHale provocatively puts the case for Only Revolutions as ‘the most typical poem in world literature’, in the sense that it ‘lays bare the poetics of poetry in something like the way that Tristram Shandy laid bare the poetics of the novel.’ This argument is developed through attention to two particular definitions of poetry: segmentivity (as proposed by the poet Rachel Blau DuPlessis) and parallelism (which emerges from Roman Jakobson’s definition of ‘the poetic function’ of language). Its observance of both these properties makes Only Revolutions, for McHale, not merely a ‘typical’ poem, ‘but something like a hyper-typical one, if that were possible.’

Keywords:   Verse narrative, Shklovsky, Typicality, Sterne, Tristram Shandy, Segmentivity, Parallelism, Jakobson, The poetic function

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