Praise and blame were the very first uses of poetry. At least that is the claim of the foundational treatise of English Renaissance poetry, Puttenham’s The Art of English Poesy (1589). This class will widely explore these two complex uses of poetry in attempt to understand their centrality to Renaissance verse. How is the beloved object – human or divine, constructed through the poet’s assignment of praise and blame? What persons, things, events, and qualities are deemed praiseworthy and blameworthy? How are notions of class, race, and gender encoded in language of approbation and disapprobation? Does the poet’s authority encroach upon that of religion and law in dictating what is good and bad, right and wrong? When does praise slide into flattery and blame into vitriol? At what points do the terms of the poet’s critique turn on the poet’s own poetry and person? What poetic figures, tropes, tones, and styles particularly lend themselves to the project of imputing value?
Our main poetic texts will be Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Jonson’s Epigrams, Donne’s Songs and Sonnets, Aemelia Lanyer’s Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum, and Herbert’s Temple; we will also be reading several critical and theoretical works.
Students will write, in stages, one long paper combining critical and research skills. For every class, each student will be asked to contribute thoughts on a pre-assigned question.