Accent, Rhythm and Meaning in French Verse

Roger Pensom

Research Monographs in French Studies 44


30 September 2018  •  180pp

ISBN: 978-1-781886-97-7 (hardback)  •  RRP £80, $110, €95

ISBN: 978-1-781883-84-6 (paperback, 7 October 2020)  •  RRP £10.99, $14.99, €13.49

ISBN: 978-1-781883-85-3 (JSTOR ebook)

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This book frames and tests a theory of the nature and role of accent and rhythm in French verse, and of their relationship with meaning. A clear and continuing tradition emerges, spanning a thousand years in the writing of poetry in French. Far from accent being irrelevant to metre, as is widely assumed, patterns of alternating accent prove indispensable for the perception of metricality. A detailed exploration of the relation between accent and syllable-count creates the basis for close readings of French verse-texts from the thirteenth to the twentieth centuries, readings which reveal the productive interdependency of rhythm and meaning.

Roger Pensom (1939–2018), a distinguished scholar of medieval French literature and of the historical development of rhythm in French, was a Fellow of Hertford College, Oxford, and University Lecturer in Old French Literature and Language at the University of Oxford.


  • ‘With his passing, we have lost an indispensable and challenging voice in the ongoing dispute about the nature of French metricity, a voice that has restored to the debate, with impressive scholarship, the claims of the pre-modern and early modern periods, a voice that has tirelessly made the very necessary case for accent, and tellingly revealed the shortcomings of too purist a version of isosyllabism.’ — Clive Scott, Modern Language Review 114.4, October 2019, 875-76 (full text online)
  • ‘This highly detailed, technically demanding book is not one that undergraduates will be expected to read, but its findings should unquestionably be one’s starting point in introducing them to French verse.’ — unsigned notice, Forum for Modern Language Studies 55.4, October 2019, 497 (full text online)
  • ‘The legacy of this book, and of its author’s life’s work, does not have to be, indeed, does not deserve to be, relegated to the lone furrow which he sometimes suggests he is ploughing. There is ample proof here to suggest that the accentual has a vital role to play within the metrical, that the peculiar tensions and hesitations of verse rhythm are produced, precisely, by the interplay between the two... Pensom’s work makes a welcome and valuable contribution.’ — David Evans, H-France 19.239, November 2019


R.P., Diana Knight
Introduction: What Is Verse and Why Do Poets Write It?
Roger Pensom
Chapter 1 the Origin and History of Word-Accent in French, and Its Role in French Verse
Roger Pensom
Chapter 2 Accent and French Poetic Art
Roger Pensom
Roger Pensom
Roger Pensom

Bibliography entry:

Pensom, Roger, Accent, Rhythm and Meaning in French Verse, Research Monographs in French Studies, 44 (Legenda, 2018)

First footnote reference: 35 Roger Pensom, Accent, Rhythm and Meaning in French Verse, Research Monographs in French Studies, 44 (Legenda, 2018), p. 21.

Subsequent footnote reference: 37 Pensom, p. 47.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

Bibliography entry:

Pensom, Roger. 2018. Accent, Rhythm and Meaning in French Verse, Research Monographs in French Studies, 44 (Legenda)

Example citation: ‘A quotation occurring on page 21 of this work’ (Pensom 2018: 21).

Example footnote reference: 35 Pensom 2018: 21.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

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