Meaning under the microscope: Revisiting E.E. Cummings' "May I feel, said he"

Mounir Ben Zid*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A torrent of taken-for-granted interpretations of E. E. Cummings' poems have been offered by conventional critics. Such traditional and arbitrary postures to the poems have not only done a disservice to literary scholars, but have also deprived readers of an opportunity to explore the possibilities of meanings and interpretations in Cummings' poems. The present paper begins by examining the basic premises of conventional criticism to detect some of its most obvious shortcomings, then goes on to show the relevance of linguistic analysis to the interpretation of Cummings' poems. The paper concludes by arguing that although critical linguistics is often accused of ignoring the meaning of a poem, it should be recognized as an area of mediation between the intuition of the conventional critic and the new findings of the linguist. The paper holds that interpretation must build upon and integrate textual evidence and linguistic facts and that a focus on style and linguistic evidence in the poem engages the reader with the "untold" meanings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-77
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Language and Literature
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2014


  • Conventional criticism
  • Deviation
  • Foregrounding
  • Intuition
  • Literary Stylistics
  • Parallelism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


Dive into the research topics of 'Meaning under the microscope: Revisiting E.E. Cummings' "May I feel, said he"'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this