English Literary Criticism: the Renaissance

English Literary Criticism: the Renaissance

English Literary Criticism: the Renaissance

English Literary Criticism: the Renaissance

Excerpt

English renaissance criticism is based on the classics as interpreted by the Italian scholars of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Its native elements diminished in importance as the revival of learning created an international community of intellectuals with Latin as their universal language. The classical texts upon which criticism was based were originally established and annotated by the Italians, and the Italian influence remained strong even when the editions used were German or French. Moreover, the major critical issues had been explored by the Italians long before they were considered important in England. The debate over Latin versus the vernacular began in Italy in the fourteenth century with Dante Alighieri On Vernacular Eloquence (De Vulgari Eloquentia, 1307), which attempted to establish the appropriate dialect and forms for serious poetry in Italian. The defense of poetry began with Books XIV and XV of Giovanni Boccaccio Genealogy of the Gods (1363-64), which constitute a formal essay justifying poetry against its many opponents. Consciously Neoplatonic criticism emerged at the end of the fifteenth century in the work of the so-called Florentine Platonists--most notably, Angelo Politian and Pico della Mirandola. The revival of Aristotle Poetics, the question of the relative merits of epic and romance, and the emergence of the Neoclassic 'rules' all occurred in Italy well before becoming important in England.

Many of the classical sources of English Renaissance criticism were works which could hardly be considered criticism today. Rhetoric may be defined as the formal study of techniques for composing and delivering orations, including working up the argument (invention), organization, style, delivery, and memory. It was a central element in the classical system of education and became so once again during the Renaissance. The most influential classical treatises on rhetoric were Cicero De Inventione . . .

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