The Poetics in Jefferson's Poetics Lecture

Robin Wooffitt, Darren Reed, Jessica A. Young, Clare Jackson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In this chapter we analyze the video of Jefferson’s lecture in 1977 on the poetics of ordinary conversation, presented at the 1977 Boston University Conference on Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis. The analysis focuses on poetic phenomena that inform her talk on conversational poetics, a reflexive twist that we consider to be in the broad spirit of Jefferson’s recognition of the wild side of Conversation Analysis. The analysis focuses on three phenomena. First, there is examination of a sound-run that seems to cluster in an early part of her talk, and which seems on occasion to have a determinative effect on word-selection. Second, we examine short-form poetics: momentary spates of talk that seem to exhibit an organization similar to formal poetics, be it in terms of length, tempo, word-choice, and so on. Finally, we examine a formal poetic organization—a clerihew—that informs part of her response to a question from the audience. We argue that poetic phenomena of the sort examined and exhibited by Jefferson deserve greater social scientific attention than they have hitherto received, and that her work merits comparison to work on poetics by Jacobson and Hymes.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication Bridging the Gap Between Conversation Analysis and Poetics
Subtitle of host publicationStudies in Talk-In-Interaction and Literature Twenty-Five Years after Jefferson
EditorsRaymond F. Jr. Person, Robin Wooffitt, John P. Rae
Place of PublicationNew York, NY, USA
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor & Francis
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9780429328930
ISBN (Print)9780367349509, 9781032197883
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Poetics
  • Poetic phenomena
  • Conversational poetics
  • Short-form poetics
  • Conversation Analysis


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