The Knowing Self: 15401688
Philip Sidney: The Beginnings of Literary Criticism and
the Making of a National Literature
A little aside on theology…
…you cannot afford to ignore Dante’s philosophical
and theological beliefs, or to skip the pas...
Reformation to Elizabeth I
1517 – Protestant Reformation begins. Martin Luther nails his "95 Theses" against
the Catholic ...
Christopher Saxton’s Atlas (Cornwall) 1579

Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, “The Ditchley Portrait” c. 1592.
Civil War - Interregnum - Restoration
1625 – 1649 Charles I, King of England. Charles dissolves Parliament
twice over fail...
Renaissance - what is it?
Rebirth of classical literature and culture
Return to Texts (neglected classical texts such
as A...
Raphael, The School of Athens, 1511
Renaissance - what is it?
Rebirth of classical literature and culture
Return to Texts (neglected classical texts such
as A...
Renaissance Humanism
Renaissance Humanism (15th century Italy)

• studia humanitatis (the studies of humanity)
• this new ...
Renaissance
going all mediaeval on it…
Learning first flourished in Greece, from thence it was deriued
unto the Romaines, ...
Nosce Te Ipsum - Know Thyself

c. 1547-1568, British Museum
Self-Fashioning
You, with no limit or no bound, may choose for
yourself the limits and bounds of your nature. We have
plac...
The Proper Study of Mankind is Man
By holding ‘as ‘twere the mirror up to nature’ (Hamlet,
III.ii.22), the arts of poetry ...
Thou art not, PENSHURST, built to envious show
Of touch, or marble ; nor canst boast a row
Of polish'd pillars, or a roof ...
Poiesis = Making
Poesy, therefore, is an art of
imitation, for so Aristotle
termeth it in his word mimesis,
that is to say...
[Poets] indeed, do merely make to imitate, and
imitate both to delight and teach, and delight to
move men to take that goo...
Only the poet, disdaining to be tied to any such subjection,
lifted up with the vigor of his own invention, doth grow,
in ...
Sidney asserts the possibility of moving beyond senseperception, beyond the world, beyond ‘subjection’,
beyond history (co...
Neither let it be deemed too saucy a comparison to
balance the highest point of man’s wit with the efficacy
of nature; but...
I may well liken […] Poetes to Cookes
the pleasures of the one winnes the
body from labor, and conquereth the
sense; the a...
Hero and Leander (1598)
• Two versions, the first unfinished by Marlowe (desunt nonnulla –
something missing), and the sec...
The gender politics behind the idea of a master-piece are
undermined in two ways: firstly, by the inability of all
charact...
Philip Sidney: The Golden World of English Literature
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Philip Sidney: The Golden World of English Literature

  1. 1. The Knowing Self: 15401688 Philip Sidney: The Beginnings of Literary Criticism and the Making of a National Literature
  2. 2. A little aside on theology… …you cannot afford to ignore Dante’s philosophical and theological beliefs, or to skip the passages which express them most clearly; but […] You are not called upon to believe what Dante believed, for your belief will not give you a groat’s worth more understanding and appreciation; but you are called upon more and more to understand it […] It is a matter of knowledge and ignorance, not of belief or skepticism. (T. S. Eliot Selected Essays, 257-8)
  3. 3. Reformation to Elizabeth I 1517 – Protestant Reformation begins. Martin Luther nails his "95 Theses" against the Catholic practice of selling indulgences, on the church door at Wittenberg 1529 – 1539 The English Reformation. Henry VIII dismisses Lord Chancellor Thomas Wolsey for failing to obtain the Pope's consent to his divorce from Catherine of Aragon; Henry summons the "Reformation Parliament" and begins to cut the ties with the Church of Rome. He marries Anne Boleyn and is excommunicated by Pope Clement VII. The Act of Supremacy is passed and Henry is declared supreme head of the Church of England. In 1536 the dissolution of the monasteries begins under direction of Thomas Cromwell. 1558 – 1603 Elizabeth I is Queen. England had briefly returned to Roman Catholicism in 1555, but now Catholic legislation is repealed in England. Francis Drake sails around the world and to the Indies. The Spanish Armada is defeated 1603 – 1625 James I, King of England (VI of Scotland). Gunpowder Plot. Colony of Virginia is founded at Jamestown by John Smith. James I's authorized version (King James Version) of the Bible is completed
  4. 4. Christopher Saxton’s Atlas (Cornwall) 1579 Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, “The Ditchley Portrait” c. 1592.
  5. 5. Civil War - Interregnum - Restoration 1625 – 1649 Charles I, King of England. Charles dissolves Parliament twice over failure to obtain finances for wars abroad. Parliament revolts and Civil War begins in 1645 between Cavaliers (Royalists) and Roundheads (parliamentarians). Theatres closed by Puritan rule. 1649 – 1660 Interregnum. Charles I is tried and executed. England established as a Commonwealth, governed by Rump Parliament and from 1653-58 by Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector. Parliament restored. 1660 – 1688 Restoration. Parliament restores Charles II to throne. Theatres reopened. Great Fire of London (1666). 1685 - James II King of England (VII of Scotland) 1688 - Glorious Revolution. William III of Orange is invited to save England from Roman Catholicism. James II flees to France
  6. 6. Renaissance - what is it? Rebirth of classical literature and culture Return to Texts (neglected classical texts such as Aristotle’s Poetics & Rhetoric) New modes of book production (Gutenberg press c. 1450) Translation and imitation (Bible, Classics, and new classics: Tasso, Montaigne, Ariosto) Studia Humanitatis
  7. 7. Raphael, The School of Athens, 1511
  8. 8. Renaissance - what is it? Rebirth of classical literature and culture Return to Texts (neglected classical texts such as Aristotle’s Poetics & Rhetoric) New modes of book production (Gutenberg press c. 1450) Translation and imitation (Bible, Classics, and new classics: Tasso, Montaigne, Ariosto) Studia Humanitatis
  9. 9. Renaissance Humanism Renaissance Humanism (15th century Italy) • studia humanitatis (the studies of humanity) • this new curriculum included grammar, rhetoric, history, poetry, and moral philosophy “… a) the concept of a unique, autonomous, personal self, to be shaped through b) the study of the language and literature of ancient Greece and Rome, c) according to the perspectives of a group of primarily literary academic disciplines.” Proctor, Robert E. Defining the Humanities: How Rediscovering a Tradition Can Improve Our Schools : With a Curriculum for Today’s Students (Indiana University Press, 1998), p.13.
  10. 10. Renaissance going all mediaeval on it… Learning first flourished in Greece, from thence it was deriued unto the Romaines, both diligent obseruers of the number, and quantity of sillables, not in their verses only, but likewise in their prose. Learning after the declining of the Romaine Empire, and the pollution of their language through the conquest of the Barbarians, lay most pitifully deformed, till the time of Erasmus, Rewcline, Sir Thomas More, and other learned men of that age, who brought the Latine toong out of the hands of the illiterate Monks and Friers: as a coffing booke, entituled Epistolæ obscurorum virorum, may sufficiently testifie. In those lack-learning times, and in barbarized Italy, began that vulgar and easie kind of Poesie which is now in vse throughout most parts of Christendome, which we abusiuely call Rime, and Meeter, of Rithmus and Metrum, of which I will now discourse. From: Thomas Campion, Observations in the Art of English Poesie 1602 http://www.luminarium.org/renascence-editions/poesie.html
  11. 11. Nosce Te Ipsum - Know Thyself c. 1547-1568, British Museum
  12. 12. Self-Fashioning You, with no limit or no bound, may choose for yourself the limits and bounds of your nature. We have placed you at the world's center so that you may survey everything else in the world. We have made you neither of heavenly nor of earthly stuff, neither mortal nor immortal, so that with free choice and dignity, you may fashion yourself into whatever form you choose. Pico Della Mirandola, Oration on the Dignity of Man, 1486
  13. 13. The Proper Study of Mankind is Man By holding ‘as ‘twere the mirror up to nature’ (Hamlet, III.ii.22), the arts of poetry and drama could help you to understand your ‘human-kindness’. In its broadest sense, Renaissance humanism was a literary culture that concerned itself with the question of how to promote civilised values and at the same time guard against the barbarism to which the baser side of human nature always threatened to lead us. (Robin Wells, Shakespeare's Humanism 7)
  14. 14. Thou art not, PENSHURST, built to envious show Of touch, or marble ; nor canst boast a row Of polish'd pillars, or a roof of gold : Thou hast no lantern whereof tales are told ; Or stair, or courts ; but stand'st an ancient pile, And these grudg'd at, art reverenced the while. Thou joy'st in better marks, of soil, of air, Of wood, of water ; Ben Jonson ‘To Penshurst’
  15. 15. Poiesis = Making Poesy, therefore, is an art of imitation, for so Aristotle termeth it in his word mimesis, that is to say, a representing, counterfeiting, or figuring forth; to speak metaphorically, a speaking picture, with this end, - to teach and delight.
  16. 16. [Poets] indeed, do merely make to imitate, and imitate both to delight and teach, and delight to move men to take that goodness in hand, which without delight they would fly as from a stranger; and teach to make them know that goodness whereunto they are moved: - which being the noblest scope to which ever any learning was directed. Imitation Delights & Teaches Delight moves men to goodness Teaching leads men to understand goodness
  17. 17. Only the poet, disdaining to be tied to any such subjection, lifted up with the vigor of his own invention, doth grow, in effect, into another nature, in making things either better than nature bringeth forth, or, quite anew, forms such as never were in nature, as the heroes, demi-gods, cyclops, chimeras, furies, and such like; so as he goeth hand in hand with nature, not enclosed within the narrow warrant of her gifts, but freely ranging within the zodiac of his own wit. Nature never set forth the earth in so rich tapestry as divers poets have done; neither with pleasant rivers, fruitful trees, sweet - smelling flowers, nor whatsoever else may make the too-much-loved earth more lovely; her world is brazen, the poets [alone] deliver a golden [world].
  18. 18. Sidney asserts the possibility of moving beyond senseperception, beyond the world, beyond ‘subjection’, beyond history (conceived of as the constraint of saying ‘what really happened’. What might be read as irresponsibility in the face of history is revealed to be in the service of a higher notion of truth […] a moment of utopian invention [but also] the negative recognition that the world of the senses from which it is trying to free itself is imperfect, or fallen. Mark Robson, “Defending poetry, or, is there an early modern aesthetic?” In The New Aestheticism: An Introduction, ed. by John J Joughin and Simon Malpas (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003), 119-130.
  19. 19. Neither let it be deemed too saucy a comparison to balance the highest point of man’s wit with the efficacy of nature; but rather give right honor to the Heavenly Maker of that maker, who, having made man to His own likeness, set him beyond and over all the works of that second nature. Which in nothing he showeth so much as in poetry, when with the force of a divine breath he bringeth things forth far surpassing her doings, with no small argument to the incredulous of that first accursed fall of Adam, - since our erected wit maketh us know what perfection is, and yet our infected will keepeth us from reaching unto it.
  20. 20. I may well liken […] Poetes to Cookes the pleasures of the one winnes the body from labor, and conquereth the sense; the allurement of the other drawes the mind from vertue, and confoundeth wit. Stephen Gosson, The Schoole of Abuse 1579
  21. 21. Hero and Leander (1598) • Two versions, the first unfinished by Marlowe (desunt nonnulla – something missing), and the second finished by George Chapman after M’s death • Chapman turns it into an Epyllion proper – minor epic narrative poem imitating Homer or Virgil • Uses Ovid and Musaeus as sources for the Hero and Leander myth. Both associated with sensual and sexual delight but assimilated into a Christian moralising tradition where sensual = beauty and truth • Displays rhetorical flourish, wit, rich imagery particularly at the moments in the narrative when the characters get what they want
  22. 22. The gender politics behind the idea of a master-piece are undermined in two ways: firstly, by the inability of all characters, including the narrator, to avoid chance and to control sexual desire, and secondly, by suggesting parallels between the narrator’s strategies and those employed by female characters in the game of seduction. Marlowe redefines the author as a transvestite who self-consciously adopts feminized behaviour. In its narrative digressions, for example, the poem succeeds in seducing the reader by imitating the coy behavior which is usually ascribed to women, as it manipulates the readers narrative desire by flirting with onward thrust and delay (1.425-30). Georgia Brown, “Marlowe’s Poems and Classicism” in Cambridge Companion to Christopher Marlowe 117.

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