Philosophy as Verse-Performance: five poems and a formalist prospectus


  • Christopher Norris Cardiff University



formalism, meter, literary theory, Mallarmé, modernism, poetics, poetry, post-structuralism, rhyme, Wittgenstein


This article consists of five poems and an introductory essay. The poems are intended on the one hand to make a case for the currently underrated virtues of poetic formalism, i.e., for the revival of rhyme and meter as aspects of poetic practice. On the other they argue for a distinctly philosophical mode of poetry that embraces the values of conceptual or rational discourse as against a romantic-modernist conception premised on the intrinsic superiority of lyric, metaphor, symbol, analogy, and suchlike touchstone values. These issues are laid out programmatically in the opening essay and developed in a more performative as well as formal way in the five poems. 

Author Biography

Christopher Norris, Cardiff University

Christopher Norris is Distinguished Research Professor in Philosophy at the University of Cardiff, Wales. He has written more than thirty books on aspects of philosophy and literary theory, among them (most recently) Re-Thinking the Cogito: naturalism, reason and the venture of thought; Derrida, Badiou and the Formal Imperative; and Philosophy Outside-In: a critique of academic reason. His volume of verse-essays The Cardinal’s Dog and Other Poems appeared in 2013 and two further collections, For the Tempus-Fugitives (Sussex Academic Press) and The Winnowing Fan (Bloomsbury) will be published later this year.


Andrews, Bruce, and Charles Bernstein. 1984. The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Book. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.

Attridge, Derek. 1995. Poetic Rhythm: an introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Attridge, Derek. 2013. Moving Words: forms of English poetry. London: Oxford University Press.

Belsey, Catherine. 1980. Critical Practice. London: Methuen.

Bernstein, Charles. 1992. A Poetics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992

Bernstein, Charles. 1999. My Way: speeches and poems. Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press.

de Man, Paul. 1990. 'Roland Barthes and the Limits of Structuralism.' Yale French Studies 77: 177–90.

Dummett, Michael. 1991. The Logical Basis of Metaphysics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Hejinian, Lyn. 2000. The Language of Inquiry. Berkeley, CA: Berkeley University Press.

King, Ross. 2016. Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies. London: Bloomsbury.

Kristeva, Julia. 1984. The Revolution in Poetic Language. New York: Columbia University Press.

Lloyd, Rosemary. 1999. Mallarmé: The Poet and his Circle. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.

Mallarmé, Stéphane. (1896) 2010. 'Crisis in Poetry.' Translated by Mary Ann Caws. In The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism edited by Vincent Leitch, 841–51. New York: W.W. Norton.

Mallarmé, Stéphane. 1945. Mallarmé: Oeuvres Completes. Paris: Henri Mondor.

McCaffery, Steve. 1986. North of Intention: critical writings 1973-86. New York: Roof Book.

McCaffery, Steve. 2001. Prior to Meaning: the protosemantic and poetics. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.

Norris, Christopher and Richard Machin, eds. 1987. Post-Structuralist Readings of English Poetry. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Perelman, Bob. 1996. The Marginalization of Poetry: language writing and literary history. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Shelley, Percy Bysshe. (1821) 2001. 'A Defence of Poetry'. In Shelley's Poetry and Prose, edited by Donald H. Reiman and Neil Fraistat, 476–90. New York: W.W. Norton.

Silliman, Ron. 1987. The New Sentence. New York: Roof Books.

Valéry, Paul. 1960. Degas, Manet, Morisot. Translated by David Paul. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press.

Ward, Geoff. 1993. Language Poetry and the American Avant-Garde. Keele: British Association for American Studies.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. 1954. Philosophical Investigations, edited by G.E.M. Anscombe. Oxford: Blackwell.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. 1980. Culture and Value, edited by G.H. von Wright. Oxford: Blackwell.

Wordsworth, William. (1800) 1991. 'Preface'. In Wordsworth and Coleridge: Lyrical Ballads, edited by R.L Brett and A.R. Jones, 286–313. London: Routledge.

Young, Robert, ed. 1981. Untying the Text: A post-structuralist reader. London and New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul.




How to Cite

Norris, C. (2017). Philosophy as Verse-Performance: five poems and a formalist prospectus. Performance Philosophy, 2(2), 342–361.