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SEL Studies in English Literature 1500-1900
Rice University MS-46
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Shimon Sandbank
Abstract: The radically balanced structure of Lyly's sentences is the product of a compulsion to write rhythmically, rather than of an analytic habit of thinking. This is shown by the use he makes of isocolon even when the logic of his thought does not require it. Rhythm as an end in itself explains much of the nature of his imagery: his preference for similes over metaphors (because similes are naturally more symmetrical) and, particularly, for multiple similes—or strings of similes—over single similes (because the former provide for greater rhythmic balance). The multiplication of similes partly determines the structure of Euphuistic imagery. It means that no single image is given the opportunity to realize itself fully. Instead, the attributes of the single image are radically eliminated to conform to the large common denominator of the entire string of images. Images are thus largely neutralized and they serve as replaceable instances of a comprehensive logical formula. This seems to be one main difference between Euphuistic imagery and other sixteenth-century prose-imagery, in which at least some essential attributes of the image are not eliminated.
Lesley W. Brill
Abstract: The chastity of Book III of The Faerie Queene is a complex and aggressive virtue derived from the nature of human sexuality and fully embodied in Britomart, the book's almost bisexual heroine. The greatest threats to her successfully completing her quest result from the nature of the very energies upon which Britomart's success depends. Her ardent sexuality is often as unruly as it is intense, and Britomart only stays afloat with difficulty upon her intestine "sea of sorrow." Britomart also encounters, in such figures as Malacasta and Busyrane, external threats to her quest's completion. Having turned to bestiality and demonism precisely the same energies which drive Britomart's chastity, Busyrane stands as Book III's most powerfully evil figure. His masque and his tapestries provide an elaborate anatomy of antichastity. Florimell, the comic heroine of a melodramatic subplot, occupies a neutral ground between Britomart and Busyrane. Her helpless panic when confronted by a series of grotesque "leachors" vividly demonstrates the importance to chastity of Britomart's martial ferocity. Where Busyrane turns to human sexuality as an occasion for lust and oppression, Florimell's response consists of flight, the denial of sexuality in both herself and others. Among the central figures of Book III, only Britomart gives full and virtuous expression to her own sexuality; and she alone is largely unthreatened by the errant sexuality of other men.
Michael O'Connell
Abstract: Although Astrophel, Spenser's pastoral elegy for Sidney, uses Ronsard's Adonis as a principal source, the tone and poetic strategy of the poem are very different. Astrophel delicately casts the reality of Sidney's life and death in a pastoral fantasy to celebrate the poet of the Arcadia. The Stella of the poem is not to be confused with the historical lady who stood behind Sidney's sonnet sequence but must be seen (in view of Spenser's trait of thoroughly transforming his literary borrowings) as representative of the inspiration behind Sidney's poetry. The flower into which the lovers are transformed becomes symbolic of Sidney's poetry and links the two parts of the elegy together. The flower consoles the shepherd poet who sings the first part but does not console Astrophel's sister, who reaches the Christian consolation in the second part. The double elegy thus implies solace both for those who loved Sidney as a poet and for those to whom he was a brother, husband, or friend.
Dorothy Woodward Culp
Abstract: In Book VI of The Faerie Queene, Spenser portrays courtesy as a true moral virtue. It derives not only from gentleness, a natural inclination to seek what is best for others, but also from the conscious and voluntary choice of an action that best meets the needs of a particular situation. One of the primary concerns of courtesy is the aid and help that one man should give to another; but it governs all those relationships that fall outside of the interests of the state or of political, economic, or personal profit. The books on the gentleman offer little help in defining Spenser's virtue, for they rarely mention courtesy and present such related virtues as justice, charity, and general moral duty in loose and overlapping definitions. Spenser carefully differentiates among these virtues, contrasting the areas governed by justice and courtesy in parallel episodes in Books V and VI. Courtesy, then, is not "merely" a social grace; it is a virtue suffused with a grace and comeliness of manner. Both the courteous action and the manner in which it is performed draw men together in good will and form a foundation for human society.
George M. Logan
Abstract: It is a matter of common knowledge that Samuel Daniel's The Civil Wars is in some sense modeled on Lucan's Pharsalia, but no one has attempted precise definition of the relationship between the two epics. The most important results of a close examination may be summarized as follows: (1) The structure and numerous individual episodes and details of Daniel's first book are modeled on Lucan's first book. In several passages Bolingbroke is tacitly identified with the ruthless and evil Caesar of the Pharsalia, and Richard II with Lucan's tragic Pompey. (2) In Book II, the account of the reunion and final parting of Richard and Isabel seems to have been inspired by corresponding passages of the Pharsalia involving Pompey and Cornelia. (3) Daniel's narrative of Talbot's stand at Châtillon (Book VI) and his account of the battle of Towton (Book VIII) include numerous Lucanic echoes. (4) Throughout the poem Daniel scatters reproductions of Lucan's epigrams and his insights into the nature of politics and war.
Carol Marks Sicherman
Abstract: Over a dozen of Donne's greatest poems or sequences of poems, various in tone and topic, manifest a common developmental pattern: after a confident or at least decisive opening, the speaker moves from initial certainties to new perceptions and emerges finally to an assured conclusion, making discoveries about himself which neither he nor we his readers have fully anticipated. Although involved in an inward crisis, the speaker always conducts his self-examination in relation to another being, either a woman or God. The language in which he conveys his search and discovery is necessarily continuous; metaphors (e.g. compasses) serve the development and may not be excised for separate scrutiny. "Goodfriday" modulates from intellectual jugglery masquerading as logical argument (and intended to justify his dereliction of religious duty in "Riding Westward"), through specious humility and anguished questioning, to a profoundly understood humility which enables him at last to interpret correctly the meaning of his westward direction. Under an increasingly bumpy surface of urbane compliment to middle-aged Mrs. Herbert, "The Autumnal" moves through a consideration of Age itself towards a final discovery of the speaker's hitherto veiled concern: his own deathward progress. Other poems discussed at some length include "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning," "A Nocturnal," and the sequence of twelve Holy Sonnets; the Anniversaries also receive attention.
Clara Lander
Abstract: While intrinsically devotional, Donne's Devotions in structure and language reflects the typhus or "spotted Feaver" of which he was a near-fatality during the 1623-24 epidemic when the work originated. Externally, the twenty-three Devotions—one for each day or station of the sickness—encase a narrative climaxed by a crisis preceded by a rash, the eruption of which divides the action into two main parts, symptomatic and cerebral. Internally, each Devotion rotates on its own axis, the daily Meditation, Expostulation, and Prayer mirroring morning, afternoon, and evening behavior of the typhus sufferer, expostulation increasing with temperature-rise, for example. Perception of the clinical in the language illumines the literal in the meaning without, however, completely freeing the physical from the metaphysical or the remedies from the rhetoric. For typhus shares certain properties with the temper of Donne's time—the tendency to suicide, for example, and self-abhorrence bred of moral and bodily spottedness, among other depressive manifestations. Inadequate evaluation of Donne's "spotted Feaver" has hitherto obstructed a more thorough investigation of his Devotions, the overall pattern of which, physically and neurologically, follows the pathogenesis of typhus, revealing Donne as a duellist to the death but with a specific disease.
George A. E. Parfitt
Abstract: The nature of Jonson's classicism and his relationship to his English environment have been distorted: an attempt is made to reduce this distortion by examining aspects of language and rhythm in Jonson's poetry. A discussion of language and rhythm suggests that for most features of Jonson's style there is no need to cite classical models and that the proper background is the sixteenth-century English plain-style. There are, however, aspects of Jonson's style—notably the lack of resonance in his language and the frequent use of isolation of words and phrases within the line—which mark Jonson off from earlier plain-stylists, and it is suggested that these features of Jonson's style may be linked with aspects of Latin verse, constituting a genuinely classical element.
W. David Kay
Abstract: Although Jonson's "On My First Sonne" has been generally admired, only L. A. Beaurline has attempted to explicate Jonson's concluding promise that thereafter "what he loves may never like too much." Beaurline helpfully links this promise to Jonson's confession that his "sinne was too much hope" of his son, but his suggestion that Jonson had placed "too much stock in the boy's success in this world" ignores the religious dimensions of the poem. Although the poem testifies to Jonson's love for his son, it also reveals his sense of stewardship and his belief in man's dependence on the Divine Good. Comparison of the poem with its source in Martial shows how Christian is Jonson's world view; the ending is much closer to St. Augustine's view of blessedness than it is to the pagan attitude of the Roman epigram. However, the poem gives full expression to Jonson's human dilemma, combining consolation with an admission of loss unusual in his time.
John M. Potter
Abstract: Another context in which Marvell's "Garden" can be read is that of the Garden of Epicurus, especially as it appears in the poetry of Horace. A comparison of the Horatian attitudes in Marvell's "Hortus" and "The Garden"—particularly in the key concepts of otium (leisure) and umbra (shade)—suggests that critics have put too much emphasis on the Christian Neoplatonic stanzas (5-8) that are left out of the Latin version. These stanzas modify, but do not completely negate, the purely Epicurean denial of ambition and love which is the theme of "Hortus." "The Garden" not only reflects Horatian attitudes but also uses the balanced structure of a Horatian ode, in which the different sections of the poem are in a kind of complementary contrast to each other. Horace does this especially in odes like "Nunc est bibendum" (C. I.xxxvii) or "Integer vitae" (C. I. xxii). This Horatian balance is also present in the tone of the poem. The paradoxes, puns, and Horatian exaggerations create a tone which is not deadly serious or philosophically abstract, but, like Horace's, seriously witty and playfully philosophical. It is for these reasons that one can identify Marvell with Horace as a "porcus de grege Epicuri" (Ep. I. iv).
William B. Hunter Jr.
Abstract: From the days when he made his entries in the Commonplace Book through his late essay, Of True Religion, Milton shows a deep interest in the pre-Reformation "Protestants," the Waldensians. He knew well and quoted from the three most important histories of their activities and beliefs; his religious practice may match theirs more closely than it does that of any other Protestant group. On the other hand, he appears not to have been involved in the vigorous English intervention in Piedmont affairs led by Cromwell after the "Massacre" of 1655, aside from translating the State Letters.

©William Marsh Rice University 1971