Presentation on theme: "Sidneys Defence of Poesie ENGL 203 Dr. Fike. Main Point for Today Periodicity: Sidneys two textsthe sonnet from Astrophel and Stella and the Defence of."— Presentation transcript:
Sidneys Defence of Poesie ENGL 203 Dr. Fike
Main Point for Today Periodicity: Sidneys two textsthe sonnet from Astrophel and Stella and the Defence of Poesieillustrate a central element of Renaissance English literature: namely, the way in which authors placed new emphasis on the classics. We will see this point developing in various ways, particularly in Sidneys use of Plato and of the structure of the classical oration.
Principles of Neo-Platonism Beauty is divine in nature and origin. There is a separation of flesh and spirit: –flesh is bad and earthly; –spirit is good and heavenly. Love is essentially spiritual: –it is a meeting of souls and minds; –love can transcend the body. One makes progress along a ladder: –from sensual to spiritual love –and from contemplation of earthly beauty to contemplation of and union with Heavenly Beauty. (Source: Ellrodts Neoplatonism in the Poetry of Edmund Spenser, pages 25ff.)
Sidneys Sonnet #5 Do you see Neo-Platonic ideas here? How is this sonnet about reason?
Key Points POINT: Were developing the idea that Sidneys inspiration was classical and Platonic. Plato and Socrates are explicitly mentioned in Sonnet 25: The wisest scholar of the wight most wise. Beauty and virtue: Line 9 identifies true beauty with virtue, a kind of beauty that transcends physical good looks. In line 10, this beauty is earthly, mutable beauty. It is a shade of that greater beauty (virtue). Reason > earthly beauty virtue Ladder of love: Lines 12-13: on earth we are but pilgrims made, / And should in soul up to our country move.
Summary There is earthy beauty, and then there is a more transcendental kind of beauty: namely, virtue. The eyeballs get us in trouble when we dwell on physical beauty instead of virtue, when you let the outer, earthly light of physical beauty overcome the inner, more spiritual light of reason, which can help us toward virtue. There is a sense at the end of the sonnet that we must ascend a ladder of love, from earthly to spiritual love, though the speaker seems anchored in the earthly in line 14. See also Sonnet 71: But, ah, Desire still cries, Give me some food.
Transition Were going to work our way around to see how Sidney uses Plato in the Defence as well. Sidneys text responds to a person: Stephen Gossons School of Abuse, whose main point is that delight is bad.
From Gossons Text But the exercise that is now among us is banqueting, playing, piping, and dancing and all such delights as may win us to pleasure or rock us asleep. His real beef is with the role of the theaters in misusing delightful representations: players are Lords of this misrule, or the very schoolmasters of these abuses.
More from Gosson Therefore, he that will avoid the open shame of privy sin, the common plague of private offenses, the great wracks of little rocks, the sure decease of uncertain causes, must set hand to the stern and eye to his steps to shun the occasion as near as he can, neither running to bushes for renting his clothes, nor rent his clothes for impairing his thrift, nor walk upon ice for taking a fall, nor take a fall for bruising himself, nor go to theaters for being allured, nor once be allured for fear of abuse.
Point So Gossons text was the catalyst for Sidneys Defence of Poesie, though Gosson was specifically criticizing the theater and plays whereas Sidney is writing more about literature in general. Sidney replies on 643/143ff. to Gosson and Plato. In order to get there, we need to ask some preliminary questions.
Questions 1.What is ironic about Platos criticism of the poets? (637/137) 2.What is a poet? (638/138) 3.What is poetry? (three points /139-41) First two rows, #1; second pair, #2; third pair, #3: find a partner and search for answers.
Possible Answers 1.Plato…depended on poetry (637/137), and the first great philosophers WERE poets (639/139). Plato himself uses poetic techniques, including made-up dialogue, characters, and dramatic situations. In short, the dialogues are themselves contrary to fact, as untrue as any of the events in Homer, whom Plato criticizes. 2.A poet is a maker (638/138). His role is thus analogous to Gods role in making the earth. So the poet has a quasi-divine function. 3.Poetry: It is imitation (mimesis, 639/139), it does not have to rhyme (640/140), and it is a speaking picture (639/139 and 641/141 top).
Next Question What is poetrys relationship to history and philosophy?
Answer History is inadequate because it lacks theory. Philosophy is inadequate because it lacks particulars. Poetry combines the best of both: it deals with the universal consideration (641/141). It is more philosophical than history and more particular than philosophy.
Another Question What is the function of poetry? (639/139)
Answer The purpose of poetry is to teach through delight and thus to move us toward virtue. Delight + teach virtue Contrast to Doctor Faustus? Sidney and Mary Poppins The greatest delight is through story telling (GH ).
Objections What objections to poetry does Sidney identify? How does Sidney reply?
Objections (page 643/143) 1.Poetry is a waste of time. 2.Poetry is the mother of lies. 3.Poetry, insofar as it portrays the gods doing terrible things to man and each other, is the nurse of abuse. 4.Plato banished the poets from his Republic.
Sidneys Replies 1.Poetry moves us to virtue, and there is no end more desirable. 2.Poets cannot lie if they do not claim to be telling the truth. 3.Poetry can also edify and improve, can have a moral influence: it can delight and teach and thereby move people to embrace virtuous behavior. 4.Sidney believes that Plato opposes only poets who promulgated wrong opinions about the deities, rather than all poets in general. Sidney also points out that Socrates himself versified fables. In the Ion, says Sidney, Plato actually commends poetry. Plato even attributes to poetry an ability to inspire a divine force, far about mans wit (846/146).
Sidney and the Platonic Hierarchy Platos order: Forms/ideas > nature > art Forms exist prior to and apart from physical manifestations. You have the idea of a tree (most real), a physical tree (less real), and a painting of or poem about a tree (least real). Question: What is Sidneys order on 638/138: Nature never set forth….
Sidneys Order In Sidneys opinion, ART TRANSCENDS NATURE! –Art = golden –Nature = brazen
Summary Plato: –Forms (highest, most real) –Nature –Art (lowest, least real) Art is a reflection of a reflection of the most real. Sidney: –Art (golden, higher) –Nature (brazen, lesser)
Discussion Question What is Sidney saying about the artist on /138-39? The passage begins Neither let it be deemed…. Read the whole paragraph and discuss.
Possible Answers God made man; thus God is the maker of a maker, namely the artist. God set man in supremacy over nature, and it is the artist who shows this most in poetry. For the poet in creation has a divine aspect. As the wind-like Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2), so the mind in creation takes on the force of a divine breath (846/146, 849/149). In short, the poet is God-like. –Like Adam, the poet is fallen, but he is only partially natures creature because, having been created in the divine image, he has this divine breath within him. –Far from being twice removed from Platos transcendent realm of Forms, the poet has a divine quality in himself that surpasses nature. Sidney is a Christian: he is aware that humanity is fallen, that human nature can be improved but not perfected. That is why he focuses on poetrys ability to teach and delight and move us toward virtue: in other words, to unite pleasure and truth. Like Christianity, poetry can improve but not remake human nature. A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down: poetry is like medicine for the soul. The erected wit, or right reason, is the divine element of mans rational soul and the source of poetic art.
Connections to Wordsworth Re. breath: Wordsworth, The Prelude : For I methought, while the sweet breath of heaven Was blowing on my body, felt within A correspondent breeze, that gently moved With quickening virtue, but is now become A tempest, a redundant energy, Vexing its own creation. Wordsworth, The Prelude : Imagination is Reason in her most exalted mood.
Connection to Shelley From A Defense of Poetry (2:758): …the mind in creation is as a fading coal, which some invisible influence, like an inconstant wind, wakes to transitory brightness: the power arises from within, like the colour of a flower which fades and changes as it is developed, and the conscious portions of our natures are unprophetic either of its approach or its departure. Could this influence be durable in its original purity and force, it is impossible to predict the greatness of the results; but when composition begins, inspiration is already on the decline, and the most glorious poetry that has ever been communicated to the world is probably a feeble shadow of the original conception of the poet.
Point Sidneys treatise on poetry is neither the first nor the last in a long line of defenses of poetry. For example, he gets the business about teaching and delighting from Horace, and Sidneys language undergirds subsequent treatises on poetry like Wordsworths and Shelleys. –WWs emphasis on pleasure parallels Sidneys stress on delight. –Shelleys claim that the great secret of morals is love parallels Sidneys stress on moral virtue.
Another Element of Sidneys Classicism: The Classical Oration Types of classical orations: –Panegyrical: Related to praise of a person for some achievement –Deliberative: Carefully and fully considers all the points relevant to an issue (think deliberate) –Judicial: Related to legal defense of a client in court. Which type of classical oration did Sidney write?
Answer Judicial: It is as if Poetry is on trial, and Sidney defends her as a classical rhetorician would defend a client in a court of law.
The Structure of the Classical Oration exordium (entrance or beginning) narratio (narrationstates the facts) propositio (proposition/definition) partitio (divisiontypes of poetry) confirmatio (confirmationpoetry and her rivals: history and philosophy) reprehensio (confutationobjections to poetry) digression (on native English poets) peroratio (conclusion)
Simplified Version Introduction Background Arguments Objections Repliesconcession and refutation Conclusion/summation
Concluding Points Although Sidneys prose style in the Defence makes it difficult to see the treatises organization, it is actually very carefully structured, following the outline of the classical oration (what we at Winthrop call the classical argument): sprezzatura (the art of concealing art). This structure, Sidneys emphasis on Neo-Platonism in his sonnet, and his multiple references to Plato illustrate the idea that writers in the Renaissance were very interested in reviving and using classical learning. END