E. E. Cummings's parentheses: Punctuation as poetic device

Roi Tartakovsky*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


M. B. Parkes writes, is part of a text's pragmatics. Originating with a need to assist unskilled readers, punctuation communicates an interpretation of a written text, but is itself the object of interpretation, in conjunction with historical shifts. As semantically fuzzy, marks of punctuation offer a particularly rich repository for artistic exploitation. The poetry of E. E. Cummings seizes upon this opportunity with unparalleled rigor. This paper maps the usage of one mark of punctuation, parentheses, appearing in the vast majority of Cummings's hundreds of poems. Treating parentheses as a poetic device, the paper divides their usage into seven categories, providing representative examples from throughout Cummings's writing. Taken together, these categories aim to show that punctuation is able to perform crucial poetic tasks, and should therefore be read with at least as much attention and consideration as other poetic elements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-247+282
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2009


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