Devotion and Desire, Abjection and Intimacy
Etymologically, ‘lyric’ poetry emerges from song: from the lyre of the ancient poets. At the heart of lyric is thus a question of voice: who is speaking, and to whom? And how does poetry work to produce the relation between the subject of poetic address and its object? Erotic lyric asks how it is possible to articulate the mechanisms of desire and power through poetic address; perhaps surprisingly, devotional lyric—religious poetry addressed to God—asks precisely the same question, casting relationship to divinity in sharply erotic terms. This course will pursue the development of lyric poetry in the English Renaissance by tracing how lyric forms shape desire and power in both secular and religious verse. Through close analysis, we will develop a bank of critical tools and vocabularies that will allow us to identify and articulate the mechanics of this poetry, exploring its wealth of formal and rhetorical resources for understanding the erotics of power. Readings will include the work of poets including Thomas Wyatt, Anne Lock, Philip Sidney, Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare, John Donne, Mary Wroth, George Herbert, Andrew Marvell, John Milton, and Katherine Philips. Regular short exercises in close reading and analytical rhetoric will build toward the development of sustained analysis in two eight-page analytical essays. No previous experience with poetry or with premodern literature is required.