We will read a vast number of cycles as cycles, that is we will be considering the sonnet not only as a specific lyric genre, but also as generically bound up with the idea of a collection of discrete poems, which often got read, in the Renaissance, to construct various kinds of narratives. We will take up this problematic double status of the sonnet cycle as both a discontinuous and continuous form, taking as a theoretical starting point Jameson's notion of genre as the "imaginary solution to real contradictions" within the ideology of the moment. We will thus be trying to locate the sonnet within its specifying moment of social origin and to trace the effect of that first social moment in subsequent evolutions of the form.
My hope is to be able to pay attention to the specificity of the form in its voluminously faddish exemplification within as many European Renaissance cultures as the class can handle. We will also be paying attention to the various material forms of the genre(s)--manuscript collections collected by readers, authorized printings of whole cycles, musical settings of single poems, etc. Nancy Vickers will be one invited guest speaker.