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Title: Tear Him for His Bad Verses: Poetic Value and Literary History in Early Modern England
Authors: Harrison, Matthew P.
Advisors: Dolven, Jeff
Contributors: English Department
Keywords: bad
early modern
Subjects: Literature
European studies
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: “Tear Him for His Bad Verses” tracks the varied language of poetic badness in the English Renaissance—parody, insult, and criticism—exploring the ways it allows poets to confuse received poetic ideas and to invent new forms. Bad poetry becomes at last a sort of green world: not a permanent escape from social, formal, or cultural rules but a place in which they are relaxed, and can take on different shapes and forms. My first chapter explores how Nicholas Breton and Edmund Spenser transform conventional gestures of self-deprecation to negotiate the competing demands of classical precedent, rhetorical theory, class, and ethical impact. To read Spenser’s “rudeness” is to emphasize badness’s potential to keep such elements in suspension, rather than to resolve their contradictions in the image of the later laureate. My second chapter proposes that, for Philip Sidney, secular lyric must always be a failure. Astrophil and Stella auditions multiple constructions of poetic value, only to twist them into contradictions in brilliant displays of wit. Yet even as the poems exhaust arguments for poetry, shattering hopes of persuasion, mimesis, or praise, they remain “sweet”: clever and beautiful. The sequence arrives less at a defense of poetry than a voice that prospers in its indefensibility. My third chapter turns to As You Like It to consider how that play’s paradoxical concern for the production of proper style and for the separation of style from value engages contemporary anxieties about the respective values of taste and techné, sincerity and skill. Orlando’s comic ineptness makes literal the conventions of artistic self-deprecation as a hope for a reader and a way of reading beyond evaluation. My final chapter argues that stage bad poetry has a double function: both primer in poetic norms and Rorshach demanding interpretation. Reading Love’s Labours Lost alongside the linguistic absurdity of inept poets from Lyly’s Sir Thopas through Jonson’s Crispinus, I show that the theater’s abiding interest in deviation aids the consolidation of English poetic norms. In the stage poet and poem, a consensus takes shape on how to relate poetry’s sound to its sense.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:English

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