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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: January ::
Re: Vendler
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0032  Thursday, 8 January 1998.

[1]     From:   Curtis Perry <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 07 Jan 1998 10:07:44 -0700 (MST)
        Subj:   Vendler & Christopher Warley

[2]     From:   Nicholas R Moschovakis <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 7 Jan 1998 12:37:06 -0600
        Subj:    Re: SHK 9.0025 Vendler


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Curtis Perry <
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Date:           Wednesday, 07 Jan 1998 10:07:44 -0700 (MST)
Subject:        Vendler & Christopher Warley

Just a quick reply to Christopher Warley's response, which I'll
reproduce here:

" I like Vicker's reading very much, but it is, after all, a reading of
Petrarch alone.  To suggest, somehow, that poems written over 200 years
later in radically different circumstances function necessarily in the
same way seems unlikely at best.  The invocation of "the Petrarchan
sonnet sequence" as a genre only begs the question of what a "Petrarchan
sonnet sequence" might be, and it tells us very little about
Shakespeare's sequence since it may or may not be "Petrarchan" (I would
say probably not) and may or may not be a "sequence" (I would say yes
with the qualification that "sequence" and "narrative" are not the same
thing).  Perry's use of Vickers and Petrarch functions similarly to
Vendler a la Fargas' use of the "poet," sounds suspiciously modern, and
historical, to me."

In citing Nancy Vickers on Petrarch, I was using a bit of shorthand
perhaps, but not eliding 200 years into one.  My argument is this: since
Sonnet sequences in England - including Shakespeare's - cite, parody,
imitate, and otherwise comment upon Petrarch, it seems fair to say that
whatever is thematically central in Petrarch MAY BE at stake in these
other, later sequences as well.  An argument of the kind Vendler objects
to, about the "silencing" of women in Sidney or even Shakespeare, is
likely to draw upon the Petrarchan tradition to frame the case. And upon
Vickers's work in particular. The arguement is not that Petrarch and
Shakespeare live together in some timeless poet's elysium and so are
identical, but that Petrarch was in various ways an influential model
for writers of love poems - especially sonnet sequences - and that this
influence is part of the feminist account of the sonnet tradition in
England.

I was only objecting to Vendler's dismissiveness in my first post, not
really making any claim about Shakespeare, the sonnets, or the dark
lady.  But I do think that the extent of Petrarch's influence upon
Shakespeare is an interesting question. I don't want "to beg the
question of what a Petrarchan sonnet sequence might be," and in fact I'd
be curious to hear opinions, either on or off the list.

Hope this clarifies,
Curtis

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Nicholas R Moschovakis <
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Date:           Wednesday, 7 Jan 1998 12:37:06 -0600
Subject: 9.0025 Vendler
Comment:         Re: SHK 9.0025 Vendler

If the "poet's mind" is a concept we get from the 19th century, then the
19th century got it from Shakespeare, though of course in mediated
forms.  Historical contingency is all well and good, but let's please
remember who wrote that "the poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,/ Doth
glance..." etc.

Vendler is a brilliant critic who, unlike some early modernists I know,
considers poetry a living art NOW. Her aim is obviously to bring
novelty, not pedantry, to our reading of the sonnets, and she does so in
a way which brings objective clarity to some formal features that have
generally gone unnoticed - for instance, the frequent proliferation of
what she calls "key-words" and related morphemes in embedded  forms (not
usually anagrams) throughout individual sonnets. These are revelations
which I, at least, would rather save from the deck of a sinking ship
than even the most sophisticated book of historicist criticism.
 

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