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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: January ::
Re: The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets"
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0010  Saturday, 3 January 1998.

[1]     From:   Peter C. Herman" <
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        Date:   Fri, 2 Jan 1998 11:34:38 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.007  "The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets"

[2]     From:   Chris Stroffolino <
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        Date:   Saturday, 3 Jan 1998 03:53:14 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.007  "The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets"


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter C. Herman" <
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Date:           Fri, 2 Jan 1998 11:34:38 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 9.007  "The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets"
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.007  "The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets"

Bravo to Martin Green for articulating (finally!) a critical perspective
on Vendler's book. Admittedly, I too have only "grazed" through it, as
Vendler suggests, yet I found the contents remarkably thin. I agree with
Martin Green that the diagrams don't really help (but I assumed that was
because I'm not a structuralist). What bothers me most of all, however,
is Vendler's utter disregard for history. Whether or not one is a new,
middle, or old style historicist (I tend to align myself with the
former), I think that we can pretty much agree that words have
particular meanings in particular circumstances and eras (somehow, I
think the line "I am tired of poets who are gay") would be interpreted
to mean something very differently than what Yeats had in mind), but
Vendler seems to think that she doesn't have to know any history.
Certainly, her bibliography lacks any contextual works. To give but one
example, her comment on "profiteless usurer" in Sonnet 4: Only the third
covative, *profitless usurer*, is a true homiletic
vocative-to-the-sinner, in which both essence *and* accident are
reproved." Well, OK, but this completely misses the fact that during the
period Shakespeare wrote these poems, "usurer" was a dirty word and that
there was a raging pamphlet war against it. Also, the anti-usury statute
of 1570 was debated at least a couple of times. But because Vendler
seems to think that the Sonnets can be looked at without regard to their
historical contexts, she misses all of this, hence misses the
multivalences and complexities of invoking usury. In addition, it is
worth noting that the Oxford English Dictionary is missing from her
bibliography, leading me at least suspect that she didn't consult it.
Finally, Vendler completely sidesteps the important question of dating
and authorization.

All told, I think that Vendler's book will have limited utility, but not
no utility at all. At least we have an academic getting positive
attention in the press, which is worth something.

Oh, also, the copy I purchased has the cover upside down. Anyone else
have the same thing?

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris Stroffolino <
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Date:           Saturday, 3 Jan 1998 03:53:14 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 9.007  "The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets"
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.007  "The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets"

Would anybody who's been able to find the Vendler book be willing to
share with me (and us) what she has to say about sonnet 8?

I would be very curious to see what she does with it.

I think the introduction's claim that she is not interested in the
MEANING of the sonnets is dubious to say the least (didn't Booth make a
similar argument?)

chris
 

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