Contrasts in the Male and Female Present Not Just in Kolodny, But in Literary Terms Too?

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I did not find my literary terms this week from the readings.  Instead, as I was flipping through the Index in the back of Hamilton’s Essential Literary Terms, I saw two terms masculine and feminine ending, which in light of Kolodny’s essay caught my attention.  If we’re going to talk about the differences in perception of male and female humans, why not talk about the difference between the masculine and feminine endings in literary terms?

Hamilton explains that both of these terms are types of substitution meaning, “any variant foot within a line that consists predominantly of another metrical pattern” (202).  This means that both terms are pretty much applied to poetry. 

A masculine ending consists of “lines that end with a strong stress,” whereas, a feminine ending are “lines that end in an unstressed syllable” (203).  And as Kolodny would probably agree there is obvious some bias in the naming of these terms, since they insinuate that “the feminine” is meek, and the “the masculine” is strong.  But regardless, that’s what the terms are.

An example of a masculine ending according to Hamilton is: “I wake /to sleep/ and take/ my wak/ing slow” (203).  Note that the last foot consists of the unstressed -ing and ends with the stressed “slow,” which makes it a masculine ending.

An example of a feminine ending would be: “To be/ or not/ to be,/ that is/ the ques/tion” (203).  In this sentence, the last foot consists solely of the “tion” from “question” which is not stressed, thereby making it a feminine ending.

Learn more literary terms. 

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