Reading Sixteenth-Century Poetry

Reading Sixteenth-Century Poetry

Reading Sixteenth-Century Poetry

Reading Sixteenth-Century Poetry

Synopsis

Reading Sixteenth-Century Poetry combines close readings of individual poems with a critical consideration of the historical context in which they were written. Informative and original, this book has been carefully designed to enable readers to understand, enjoy, and be inspired by sixteenth-century poetry.
  • Close reading of a wide variety of sixteenth-century poems, canonical and non-canonical, by men and by women, from print and manuscript culture, across the major literary modes and genres
  • Poems read within their historical context, with reference to five major cultural revolutions: Renaissance humanism, the Reformation, the modern nation-state, companionate marriage, and the scientific revolution
  • Offers in-depth discussion of Skelton, Wyatt, Surrey, Isabella Whitney, Gascoigne, Philip Sidney, Spenser, Marlowe, Mary Sidney Herbert, Donne, and Shakespeare
  • Presents a separate study of all five of Shakespeare's major poems - Venus and Adonis, The Rape of Lucrece, 'The Phoenix and Turtle,' the Sonnets, and A Lover's Complaint- in the context of his dramatic career
  • Discusses major works of literary criticism by Plato, Aristotle, Horace, Longinus, Philip Sidney, George Puttenham, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Seamus Heaney, Adrienne Rich, and Helen Vendler

Excerpt

Sixteenth-century English poetry is a treasured artifact of world art. 1564 saw the birth of William Shakespeare, author of such world-class masterpieces as the Sonnets and Hamlet, both originally written in the 1590s. The sixteenth century is also the era of the madcap “Skeltonics” invented by John Skelton, the first self-crowned “poet laureate” in modern English; the revolutionary “Petrarchan” poetry of Sir Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard, earl of Surrey; the breakout national poetry of Edmund Spenser and Sir Philip Sidney; the domestic and civic poetry of the first woman in English thought to have a literary career, Isabella Whitney; and the spiritually haunting love poems of Sir Walter Ralegh, Christopher Marlowe, and John Donne, each of whom registers a voice that sounds distinctly modern: “For God’s sake, hold your tongue and let me love,” exclaims Donne to open “The Canonization.” Yet students encountering this poetry for the first time confront a genuine historical problem: poetry of the sixteenth century may constitute the gold standard for poetry in English, yet over 400 years of cultural change make the famed poetry of Shakespeare and his contemporaries not simply difficult but also alien.

This volume in the Wiley-Blackwell series Reading Poetry aims to help students become better readers of sixteenth-century poetry. Since most students possess some familiarity with the problem this entails – perhaps through knowledge of the enigmatic beauty of Shakespeare’s Sonnets – the book concentrates on a strategy for responding to the problem. In doing so, it argues that sixteenth-century poetry is exceptional in the experience

Reading Sixteenth-Century Poetry, First Edition. Patrick Cheney.
© 2011 Patrick Cheney. Published 2011 by Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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