Historical poetics often seeks to read “from the inside out,” to understand form's history by starting with the features of form themselves. In that sense, it is uniquely placed to understand the intersections of poetics and politics, and to uncover the places where rhythmic features intersect with issues of power. This essay shows that one particular feature of form—terminal rhyme—has had a peculiar and troubling closeness to strains of critical misogyny: on the one hand, rhyme is sometimes deemed “unmanly” or unserious, yet there is also a history of maligning women poets for being bad rhymers, and not feminine enough. Beginning with what may seem like the opposite school to historical poetics—the contextless “Practical Criticism” exercises of New Criticism—it makes the case for a close attention to rhyme types and rhyme practices within politically aware critical reading and explores unorthodox approaches to rhyme in three exemplary poets: Christina Rossetti, Emily Dickinson, and Sylvia Plath.

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