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This article is taken from PN Review 126, Volume 25 Number 4, March - April 1999.

Body of Evidence Chris McCully

If you watch footage of a Bernstein, if you watch a Norrington or a Salonen, there's no doubt about it: rhythm is the body. And those of use who have ever clapped, tapped, experimented disastrously with line-dancing, or counted syllables and beats, know also that it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing - whatever and wherever that swing is. It follows, as a down- follows an up-beat, that the aim of this essay is to develop some of the points I raised in PNR 121 and 125, and to explore the neurophysiology of rhythmical language. By invoking physiology, I don't mean I wish to write about 'The Body'. I'll leave 'The Body' to the spreading rump of cultural theorists, who seem to find the subject - or is that the Subject? - irresistible, and who see in 'The Body' a locus of bourgeois guilt, a site of post-Freudian repression, and a terrifying capacity for the literary and cultural possibilities of syphilis. I'm afraid I do not need to be told about the possibilities of slow decrepitude or testy delirium. For this writer, the body is a place where it's difficult to pat your head and rub your stomach simultaneously, and which, in conjunction with the informing brain, performs staggering feats of rhythmical co-ordination and re-creation many thousands of times each day. Why should you care? Because as a poem means, it also is; its haeccity is a rhythmic, and it may be a metrical, process. ...


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