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SEL Studies in English Literature 1500-1900
Rice University MS-46
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Houston, Texas 77005-1827

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Anthony LaBranche
Abstract: Recent rhetorical approaches to the long Renaissance poem have suffered from an inability to describe the operation and effect of the poem as a totality. The classical rhetorical motives of praise and blame, persuasion and propaganda have been advanced traditionally to explain the shape and activity of certain genres, where a more flexible and sympathetic investigation of the poetic uses of rhetoric might bring us closer to the heart of the individual poem. This is particularly true of historical poetry, which has received an overlay of explanation according to political and ideological background, to standard rhetorical devices and to outmoded notions of source-borrowing and imitation. In examining passages of the Barons Warres I have tried to demonstrate what may be the poetic uses of source material and of rhetorical amplification, resulting in the "fictionalizing" of the historical events. By noting the poetic rhythm of providential and private concerns, of particular and general statement, we may find a new understanding of what the imitation of history and its accompanying rhetorical performance meant to the Renaissance poet.
Elizabeth McCutcheon
Abstract: In naming his traveller to Utopia Raphael Hythlodaeus, More uses, and simultaneously varies, a complex tradition of angelic names and offices to amplify the character and his functions. Archangels generally are messengers of illumination, while St. Raphael was long thought of as the "medicus," the angel-physician who cures souls and bodies, and the traveller-guide who leads men on their journeys in life and through it. Liturgy, art, philosophy, and theology perpetuated these offices, which coalesce about salus (health, safety, welfare, and salvation), and equally traditional associations with charity and vision. Like his archangelic prototype, this Raphael is a prophetic messenger, traveller, and guide, attacking the avarice and pride of a country blindly following the wrong road. As the "medicus salutis" he seeks to cure a sick state; as a "peregrinator" to show the right way. More's figures and tropes underline these functions, while he wittily plays upon one office, the traditional pilgrim-guide becoming the world traveller and explorer. His dramatic inversion of the traditional gesture ironically qualifies these functions. As the guide is guided at the end of Utopia, the paradox of his name is brought home; Raphael is also Hythlodaeus, his vision a tall traveller's tale.
Harry Berger Jr.
Abstract: Merlin's chronicle in Faerie Queene III.iii is ordered into a series of three cycles (III.iii.26-34, 35-42, 43-50) organized in such a way as to reveal the conflicting claims of two dynamic patterns: a recurrent pattern in which elemental, hostile, and animal tendencies are sustained through history; and a linear pattern in which each cycle differs in total character from its predecessor. The first cycle is dominated by simple and primitive forces: physical force, size, and number are the determining factors, while the moral issues are clearcut—good Britons, bad enemies. The second cycle reveals a more complicated network of forces and values in which it is less easy to identify praise- and blame-worthy parties. Treachery and duplicity play a bigger role, and the Britons confront a "good" Christian enemy; the final defeat of the Britons in this cycle is imposed by heaven, not by men. In the third cycle, Merlin makes it clear that the Britons as a nation—an ethnic group—have had their day in history: they represent the youthful and intuitive vigor of the English people as a racial or natural quality, and they must be superseded by, assimilated to, the more complicated and abstract structure of a political entity.
D. Douglas Waters
Abstract: In the theological allegory of The Legende of Holinesse Spenser uses Prince Arthur as a symbol of the moral virtue of magnanimity or greatness of soul, a "christianized" concept of Aristotle's megalopsychia appropriated by St. Thomas Aquinas, Patrizi, Pontano, Cinthio, Piccolomini, Sir Thomas Elyot, La Primaudaye, Cardinal Cajetan, and others. Heavenly grace and Una (truth) bring Prince Arthur to Red Crosse's rescue, just as St. Thomas believed any infusion of the moral virtues presupposed the presence of grace. Having diminished his magnanimity or greatness of soul through actual sins in Cantos II-VII, the Knight of Holiness falls victim to Orgoglio (pride) and is helpless without the coming of Prince Arthur (symbolizing the infusion of magnanimity into Red Crosse's soul). In harmony with most Catholic and some Protestant views of the christian man's ability to cooperate with grace and rise from sin, Spenser shows that grace infuses magnanimity, that Red Crosse cooperates with grace and repents, and that Prince Arthur (magnanimity) kills Orgoglio (pride).
Kenneth R. R. Gros Louis
Abstract: The differences between sixteenth- and seventeenth-century allusions to Orpheus reflect the change in attitude toward mythological allusions in poetry and the decline of the humanists' vision of a new golden age led by poet-philosophers. Influenced by Italian neoplatonists, pastoral poets, and mythographers, Elizabethan authors cast Orpheus in two primary roles—as the perfect lover-artist of the pastoral life and as the exemplar of the poet as civilizer of mankind. In his first role, Orpheus is imaginatively adapted to contemporary themes and motifs of numerous genres. In his second role, he becomes essential to the defense of poetry, to the contention that the poet is the best teacher. Seventeenth-century allusions to Orpheus as lover-artist, however, are stereotyped and commonplace, and suggest the loss of the mythologizing instinct. More important, seventeenth-century allusions to Orpheus as civilizer consistently recall his death and dismemberment, an aspect of the myth which sixteenth-century poets had ignored. Orpheus is isolated and bitter, for poetry is rejected by society as a means toward learning. The disappearance of the triumphant Orpheus is symptomatic of the gradual division during the century between poetry and philosophy or science.
A. R. Cirillo, Donne, Spenser
Abstract: The image of the hermaphrodite, used to describe the joyful reunion of Amoret and Scudamour in the original (1590) ending of Book III of The Faerie Queene, has its basis in standard Renaissance philosophy of love. It is, in fact, a topos which includes a generic and metaphysical concept of love as a union of two souls in one. Through mutual love, two lovers achieve that perfect fusion of souls that makes them one—neither he nor she, but both he and she in one spiritual union. This theory is propounded in the writings of Ficino, Ebreo, Speroni, Dolce, and the trattati d'amore: and it suggests that the moment of union is preceded by ecstasy, or a love-death in which the two lovers are said to be dead, to die to life that they may live to love. The symbol of such a union was the image of the hermaphrodite. Thus, Amoret and Scudamour are described as in a state of ecstasy as they embrace; and the emphasis in the description is not really on the union of their bodies, but on that union as a sign of the higher union of their souls. This concept of union may be seen as the basis of many of Donne's Songs and Sonnets, particularly "The Exstasie" and "Valediction: Forbidding Mourning." It suggests a return to the kind of perfection enjoyed by Adam (who was supposed to have been originally hermaphroditic) in Paradise, recoverable now only in a spiritual way through a perfect, virtuous love.
Dennis Quinn
Abstract: Donne's Anniversaries are celebratory in so far as they are commemorative, public, and joyful songs of praise. For Donne commemoration meant bringing the past to bear on the present and establishing a pattern for the future; hence the Anniversaries urge the reader to remember Elizabeth Drury as a pattern of virtue. Since all celebration is a public and communal act, Donne's poems place particular emphasis on death as the process in which all Christians participate. Although festivity occurs, then, at the junctures between life and death, the dominant note of celebration is joy. The Anniversaries, therefore, confront the full horror of death only to emerge into the light of Elizabeth's joy. The element of praise which dominates the poems is that part of celebration which affirms the goodness of the order of things. Hence, while Donne dispraises sin and "the world," he does not reject God's order but rather emphasizes its restoration in the virtue of Elizabeth. Donne is conscious, moreover, of declaring his praise in the lofty genre of celebratory song, the high standards of which poems sustain.
G. R. Wilson Jr.
Abstract: An analysis of the twelve occurrences of mirror imagery in Donne's poetry reveals that the use of these images seems to have been most congenial to the poet when he was dealing with the subject of secular love. A detailed investigation of the eight most fully developed mirror images—those in "The good-morrow," "The Extasie," "The Canonization," "Witcheraft by a picture," "The broken heart," "Valediction: of my name, in the window," "Heroicall Epistle: Sapho to Philaenis," and "A Valediction: of weeping"—further reveals that these poems constitute a coherent entity summing up the poet's "sexual metaphysics." Donne has here used the concepts of neoplatonism, of the microcosm and macrocosm, and of the Great Chain of Being to establish a paradoxical hierarchy of the levels on which non-Divine love exists for him. Finally, these mirror images epitomize Donne's ability to fuse intellect and emotion, reality and appearance, perception and reflection, and the physical and the spiritual to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts, a creation that simultaneously defines a paradox and resolves it.
G. A. E. Parfitt
Abstract: Underestimation of Jonson's poetry is linked with misunderstanding of the nature of his classicism: a consideration of his ethical view helps to reduce this misunderstanding. "To Penshurst" indicates the extent to which Jonson's poetry is based on ethical discriminations and anchored in a contemporary environment, while a more general survey shows that most of the ethical views embodied in the poetry are familiar Elizabethan attitudes and that what Jonson thought does not, in any isolating sense, make him a classical writer, even where his poetry owes a verbal debt to Rome. Yet Jonson's poetry is distinctive, and this is because of the consistency of his ethical position throughout a long career and because of the centrality of this ethical position in his verse. This central ethical view is socially rather than religiously biassed and it is this that makes Jonson distinct among Elizabethan writers and that constitutes a significant link with Rome. The ethical emphasis is seen to be connected with the great virtues of Jonson's poetry: its "tough reasonableness" and its concentrated insights into aspects of human experience.
Richard Strier
Abstract: The characteristic voice in Crashaw's poetry is that of the exultant celebrant of the Christian mysteries: it is a voice wholly free of anxiety or painful self-consciousness. Yet while there is no introspection in the Carmen Deo Nostro, there is, in certain of these poems, the kind of tension, concern, and doubt associated with introspection and the kind of language associated with this tension. The poems in which there is tension and doubt represent Crashaw's "other voice" and they are all poems written to other people. Human concern acted upon Crashaw's poetic language the way introspection acted upon the language of Donne or Herbert. In these poems, Crashaw had to develop an idiom capable of reflecting the psychological and moral complexities of the state of an individual soul at a particular moment. A close analysis of the finest of Crashaw's poems to other people, the 1652 version of the epistle to the Countess of Denbigh, reveals the manifold stresses which anxious human concern and a need for coherent persuasion imposed upon Crashaw's habitual voice and poetic mode and on the values normally implicit in his language.
Robert H. Deming
Abstract: In his poems involving death and funeral rites, dirges and "shades," Herrick presents his double awareness of the relationship of ceremonies of the past to those of the present and of the poetic efficacy of all ceremonies. To support a critical appreciation of Herrick's historical awareness, details of classical death-rite ceremonies from dictionaries of antiquities and from classical writers such as Catullus, Servius, and Propertius are provided to complement details of more familiar Anglican and Roman Catholic ceremonies. These glosses on the dozen or so poems analyzed, especially in "The Funerall Rites of the Rose," demonstrate Herrick's insistence upon the due and proper performance of sacred ceremonies. The newly created ceremony in the poems is discussed as a mnemonic device giving eternal significance to the deceased person or thing and to the ceremony itself. For the rites of sanctification, if they are the just enactment of the ceremonial law, link the mortal world of the poems to the immortal world of remembrance and art and provide a poetic and artistic eschatology.
A. C. Hamilton
©William Marsh Rice University 1969