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SEL Studies in English Literature 1500-1900
Rice University MS-46
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Arthur F. Kinney
Abstract: Sir Philip Sidney's Defense of Poesie consciously parallels and burlesques Stephen Gosson's Schoole of Abuse (1579) in form (the classical oration), issues (listed in Sidney's reprehensio), authorities, and even illustrations as well as in style, notably the use of euphuism. This was because Sidney recognized that—although he disagreed with Gosson's apparent position against all poetry and the simplicity and crudity of Gosson's work—his disagreement with Gosson was not a substantial one; he resorted to parody to mask the similarity of his own argument in his "Defense." Since the comparison of texts demonstrates how clearly this was the case, we must now redate the composition and distribution of Sidney's treatise as late fall or early winter 1579/80.
Claud A. Thompson
Abstract: The tapestries in Book III (i. 34-38; xi. 28-46) of The Faerie Queene remind us that Spenser has been called "the painter of the poets." But though the tapestries seem like "living pictures," the language in these passages is not especially lively or pictorial. Spenser achieves the illusion of vividness and vivacity chiefly through rhetorical devices, particularly figures of pathos. Giovambattista Giraldi wrote that the soul of a poem is found in "that power of the work whence the affections enter into the heart of the reader, as if a living voice were speaking." It is the "living voice" of the narrator, rather than an abundance of graphic detail, that brings the tapestries before our eyes. His description of them is interspersed with exclamation, apostrophe, interrogation, and parenthesis; these figures of pathos heighten the sense of verisimilitude. The narrator shares his wondering response with the reader; because the enthusiastic tone is so convincing, the reader is persuaded to share belief in the tapestries—he is moved by pathos to accept the narrator's testimony about their vividness and vivacity.
William P. Walsh
Abstract: Christopher Marlowe's "Hero and Leander" dramatizes the first sexual experience of two lovers who are at once comic and tragic. To give us perspective on this affair, Marlowe evokes Renaissance justifications for physical love as an act of generation. The opening portraits of Hero and Leander suggest through mythological allusion the Neoplatonic sanction for sexual love: the propagation of beauty in this world. Natural law also celebrates procreation as the triumph of the species over death. Such moral contexts for physical love are beyond these lovers, whose irrational passions prove destructive rather than fruitful. Their shortcomings, however, arise out of their limited knowledge and experience, and arouse both our laughter and our sympathy. Hero, Venus's nun, serves in a temple that betrays her own distorted notion of love; the violent sensuality portrayed there both frightens and fascinates her. The only other behavior she knows in love is the aloofness of the conventional unattainable lady. Hero's comic vacillations between cold and lustful virginity spring from these perversions, which destroy her potential for love. Leander is unaware of the existence of sexual love, but the facts of sex are all he learns in the course of the poem. The scene of his discovery is delightful, but his meager knowledge makes him cruel in the pursuit of physical satisfaction. In the final consummation scene both lovers are preoccupied with sex, which they think its own end, a paradise. Had the poem been finished, this tragic distortion of values would have destroyed them.
Avril S. O'Brien
Abstract: The majority of studies of the development of the novel overlook Dobsons Drie Bobbes: Sonne and Heire to Skoggin. This oversight is to be regretted because several aspects of this work set it apart from the examples of prose fiction of the Renaissance that are most generally discussed by students of the novel. Although Dobsons Drie Bobbes is structured on the jest book, the author's skilled presentation of character, his evocation of locale, his attempt to achieve a degree of logically developed structural unity, and his probings into the psychological development of some of his characters give his book an added dimension that makes it approximate psychological realism more closely than the majority of more frequently studied examples of prose fiction of the period. The anonymous author of Dobsons Drie Bobbes clearly extends and enlarges the established techniques of writings of his time, and makes many original contributions to the development of prose fiction.
William E. Sheidley
Abstract: Turbervile's experimentation with the classical epigram offers an instructive example of the difficulties encountered by the early Elizabethan translators and imitators in reconciling ancient literature with the poetic tastes and intentions of Tudor Humanism. Turbervile's own fascination with minute prosodic refinements frequently adds a new dimension of interest to his models, but too often the impulse to expand upon his sources by multiplying detail, tracing motivations and casual relationships, generalizing, and moralizing obscures the concretion and wit of the classical poems, rendering them sometimes childish or even nonsensical. To his best epigrams, however, these same characteristic early Elizabethan habits of composition lend depth of meaning and richness of emotion quite surpassing anything to be found in the sources. Turbervile's recreation and partial mastery of the genre defined by the poems he knew from the Greek Anthology yielded a group of apparently original epigrams similar to his translations. In these poems, the pull of the native medieval tradition of type-satire "epigrams," no longer balanced by the particularization and pointedness of the classical models, draws Turbervile into flatness and cliché. Only occasionally do the virtues of both traditions combine with Turbervile's stylistic precision to produce memorable miniature successes.
Camille Slights
Abstract: Seventeenth-century Anglican casuistry provides the context for a fuller understanding of John Donne's "Satyre III." The theoretical basis of casuistry is the concept of the conscience, defined as an activity of the reason which passes moral judgment on all actions and supersedes all other authorities. The Anglican casuists insist that morally right action can issue only from a rational judgment based on all available evidence. Their cases of conscience characteristically attempt to clarify the process by which the conscience relates divine law to particular circumstances in cases of doubt. In subject, structure, and style Donne's third satire closely resembles these cases. Through the voice of a casuist, Donne analyzes the problem of religious truth as a personal moral dilemma in which right action depends on rational thought. He does not offer an authoritative solution to the specific problem; rather, by focusing on the relations between the individual conscience and human and divine law, he explains the theoretical basis of casuistry and provides a model of the process by which a man may "stand inquiring right" and thereby save his soul.
Diane Kelsey McColley
Abstract: The separation scene in Book IX of Paradise Lost is generally regarded as evidence that Milton portrays Eve as vain and willful and Adam as weak and uxorious before the Fall, implying that they are originally flawed and their failure inevitable, and thus blaming their Maker for sin and woe, a notion Milton consistently repudiates in both poetry and prose. Rather, the scene portrays potentially sufficient beings in the process of healthful growth, facing difficulties and learning the meaning of obedience to God's behests and imitation of God's ways: Adam in instructing Eve and preserving for her the dignity of choice, and Eve in responding creatively to her calling to help Adam both in caring for the Garden, which teaches the fruitfulness of a loving discipline, and in caring for the "happier Eden" of fruitful marriage. Eve's obedience to Adam and to "God in him" depends on her liberty, preserved here and lost in the Fall, and the health of their mutual love depends on their trust in God and their responsiveness to the whole creation. The separation scene dramatizes not merely weaknesses Satan will exploit but, more importantly, virtues he will pervert, but which will be restored to responsive men in the process of regeneration.
David R. Clark
Abstract: Contrary to Frank Kermode's The Living Milton (1960), Milton's reference to "Asmodeus" and "the fishy fume" does not simply "get into the context a bad smell" to suggest the decay after the Fall. The fishy fume is punishment as well as corruption. Satan, like Asmodeus, has been, and will be, driven and "fast bound." But here for a moment the odors of Paradise distract him from the Hell of himself just as "old Ocean," like sailors "Beyond the Cape of Hope," smiles with relief at the non-Oceanic smell wafted from "Araby the blest." All fishy fumes originate from and return to Oceanus (as all sins from Satan), and he is glad of a change. Satan too seeks relief from a fishy fume of corruption and punishment, the Hell which he brings with him (IV, 20-23), which he vainly flies, the Hell which he is (IV, 73-75). (Note: Kermode finds a syntactical ambiguity, treating "As when" as one phrase used as a subordinating conjunction, seeming "at first to refer back, then to refer forward." Actually "As" relates to "they slack thir course" and "when" to "North-East winds blow.")
Kathleen M. Swaim
Abstract: Maze provides a very skillfully manipulated physical, spatial, verbal, etymological, intellectual, and spiritual pattern in which Milton embodies the internal and external actions of the Fall, evil, and reason, with suggestive commentary of these themes, and a miniature of the poem's artistry, characterization, psychology, setting, and style. Maze words mark the sequence of the Fall in Paradise Lost Book IX, lines 161, 183, 499, 552, 614, 640, and 889. Maze (as labyrinth with classical backgrounds) is played against amazement (becoming lost in the complexity of delusive experience), with the Satanic rendered as labyrinthine and Satan's operations on Eve as amazement. Maze is at first concretely offered as Satan's physical and spatial form in the serpent. Descriptions shift from the adjectival "mazy folds" to the static "labyrinth" to the numinous vitality of "surging maze." Thereafter maze comes to describe abstractly and with poetic richness through incrementation, the verbal, psychological, and spiritual processes Satan employs to controvert the reason and faith of Eve and thus of Adam. Satan creates a labyrinth of language and logic into which, imitating him, Eve draws herself into loss.
Lynn Veach Sadler
Abstract: Typological approaches to Samson Agonistes have tended to obscure Milton's emphasis on the historical and the experiential. Miltonic types do not merely await fulfillment in Christ, the antitype, but demonstrate the continuity of God's ways through all historical dispensations. In Paradise Lost and the De Doctrina, the Son establishes the pattern of recta ratio by choosing to ransom man. In Paradise Regained, he searches the Law and the Prophets to learn about his mission and exemplifies thereby the process of right use of the faculties. His response to God's accommodation in Paradise Lost, III, becomes a pattern for man's response to God's "signs." He teaches that warring faculties, political tyranny, or perverted serpents are not alone signs of Justice and of Mercy simultaneously. Samson, located in Judges between the Law and the Prophets, reflects more than the legalism of the Law; and Milton shows Samson going over his experiences until his false choices (primarily, legalistic ones) become evident. Samson acquires his regenerative consolation under the Old Testament dispensation, but is exemplary, after Christ's own role of Exemplar, for those who adjust his experience to that of their own historical circumstances. Samson gains "prophetic liberty" (comparable to the Christian liberty of Christian dispensations) through Milton's replacement of the traditional "Law versus the Gospel" by the "Law versus the Prophets" or "Law versus the 'Law and the Prophets.'" He is a type of regenerative religious experience responsive to God's ways as put to pattern in Christ.
David O. Frantz
Abstract: Attacks on lewd readers indicate that there was pornography in the Renaissance. The unanimity of these attacks leads one to a corpus of Italian and English erotica which is important in and of itself, revealing in terms of certain English texts, and important in the relationship of Italy and England in the Renaissance. Gabriel Harvey (1545-1630) and Joseph Hall (1574-1656) cite writers like Poggio Bracciolini (1380-1459), Pietro Aretino (1492-1556), and Thomas Nashe (1567-1601) as the chief purveyors of "filth" in the Renaissance. I examine Italian pornography to provide the background for the English texts and discuss the connections between the two countries in light of Italian pornography, for pornography illuminates England's double-edged response of admiration and detestation for Italy. English jokes and epigrams and Nashe's Choise of Valentines serve as examples of English pornography. John Marston's Metamorphosis of Pigmalions Image (1598) shows how a knowledge of Renaissance pornography is essential for understanding such a poem. The implications of these findings with regard to attacks on pornography by theologians and moralists, works which claim to teach by negative exempla in presenting explicit sexual material, and the interpretation of much Renaissance painting are the issues of the conclusion. A knowledge of Renaissance pornography forces us to an awareness of the sometimes overt sexual nature of such works.
Frederick Von Ende
Abstract: George Herbert's sonnet, "The Sonne," although ostensibly religious through its inclusion in The Temple, is in effect a nationalistic defense of the adequacy of the English language at a time when concern over language was great in England and on the Continent. Trained and skilled in the art of oratory, Herbert employed a compact and concentrated form of the classical oration to prove that English is not inferior to other tongues. His proof lies in the sun-son homonym, a traditional image in Christian literature and a conventional pun in English poetry. The first three lines approximate the exordium and narratio of the oration; the fourth line is the propositio. Lines five and six indicate the direction of the defense, thus serving as the partitio. Lines seven through ten, the confirmatio, are an assimilation of the multitude of meanings to be found in the sun-son word sound. The last four lines are the peroratio, applying the combined meanings of sun-son to the Son of God and in so doing suggesting that any language which could say so much about both the humility and the glory of Christ in a single word could hardly be judged inadequate.
Stanley E. Fish

©William Marsh Rice University 1972