In recent years it has been unfashionable in literary studies to attempt to distinguish poetic language from ordinary language, since poetic language has no monopoly on lively imagery or figurative expressions and poets have been disinclined to adopt anything resembling "poetic diction."

But Professor Culler asks whether nonetheless there are not distinctive uses of language characteristic of lyric poetry and singles out forms of lyric address to absent or impossible addressees and a special use of the present tense. When action verbs are used in a non-progressive present tense - "I wander through each chartered street?." they signal that we are dealing with a lyric poem, which attempts to be an event rather than a representation of a past event.

This lecture was sponsored by the School of Criticism & Theory.