I remember hearing about this formula where it showed a graph of what makes a poem good. It had something to do with increasing length to increase enjoyability. I was wondering if anyone remembered the name of the theory or theorist?

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    Are you talking about the famous J. Evans Pritchard quoted in Dead Poets Society? emptymirror.livejournal.com/84005.html Sep 7, 2014 at 1:05
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    If you haven't watched Dead Poets Society, you really really should. The entire point of that scene was to show that you cannot, in fact, reduce poetry to formula. Sep 7, 2014 at 12:16
  • But is that an actual quote, or was it invented specifically for Dead Poet's Society?
    – celtschk
    Sep 7, 2014 at 12:49
  • @LaurenIpsum From the comments at that linked page: "The Pritchard of Dead Poet's Society is just a pseudonym for Laurence Perrine; the text itself is taken verbatim from Perrine's Sound and Sense: An Introduction to Poetry." with the later correction that it was not a verbatim quote though that view was expressed in the book.
    – user5232
    Sep 7, 2014 at 17:50
  • Perrine gets surprisingly good reviews: amazon.com/Perrines-Sound-Sense-Introduction-Poetry/dp/… Sep 8, 2014 at 1:20

1 Answer 1


(Distillation of the comments:)

Are you talking about the famous J. Evans Pritchard quoted in Dead Poets Society? He is apparently a pseudonym for Laurence Perrine, and the text is more or less taken from Sound and Sense: An Introduction to Poetry.

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    I didn't know it was a real thing, thank you. The scene in the movie was good enough to embarrass the author of this "formula". I came here to respond that "there is no formula for good poetry" other than the criteria of musicality, rhythm and the adherence to (or breaking of) classic structures such as verses or rhetorical figures.
    – FraEnrico
    Oct 6, 2017 at 7:20

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