In sixteenth-century England, new referred to not what breaks from the past but what brings it back again: a new year or a new monarch. When used to designate the unprecedented, new is suspect: prodigies are new, as is insurrection. What does it mean, then, for a vernacular poet in this period toinnovate?
The organizing rubric of the seminar will be published poetic novelties in sixteenth-century England. Among them: the first anthology of English verse (Tottel’s Miscellany), the first extended poetic treatise (Puttenham’s The Arte of English Poesie), the first collection of poetry by a woman (I. Whitney’sA Sweet Nosgay), the first sonnet sequence (Sidney’s Astophil and Stella), the first emblem book (G. Whitney’s A Choice of Emblemes), a poet’s published début (Spenser’s The Shepheardes Calender), the first translation of a classic. We will also looking at first instances of particular poetic forms: the first sestina, Horatian satire, Pindaric ode, and country house poem.
Of particular interest will be the printed preliminaries in the early editions of these works: how does the commercial new relate to the poetic new? But we will also be considering the premium modernity has put on the category. In view of such concerns, we will return to the questions which have traditionally framed the study of Renaissance verse, pertaining to imitation, originality, invention, translation, quotation and allusion, neologism and archaism, and above all, ancient vs. modern – that is, old vs. new.