Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2014 :: March ::
Sonnet 18: Gender and Date

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.157  Friday, 28 March 2014

 

[1] From:        John Drakakis < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         March 27, 2014 at 11:50:18 AM EDT

     Subject:    RE: SHAKSPER: Sonnet: Gender and Date 

 

[2] From:        Bob Grumman < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         March 27, 2014 at 2:51:55 PM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Sonnet: Gender and Date 

 

 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------

From:        John Drakakis < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         March 27, 2014 at 11:50:18 AM EDT

Subject:    RE: SHAKSPER: Sonnet: Gender and Date

 

I take Ian Steer’s point, BUT we can arrange these sonnets in a number thematic of sequences can’t we? Why must we persist in this romantic illusion (occasionally noted by some of the commentators on the Sonnets who slip into it themselves) that what the speaker(s) in these poems are doing is exposing autobiographical relations. Can we not think of these poems as permutations on a series of issues that expand the range of the genre considerably?

 

Cheers

John Drakakis

 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Bob Grumman < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         March 27, 2014 at 2:51:55 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Sonnet: Gender and Date

 

Off-the-top-of-my-head (although I’ve given the matter lots of thought on&off over the years:

 

A problem I think interesting, and serious, is what should guide a reader of a poem to his reading of a poem (or any work of art).  I claim there are four things he should consider: (1) the author’s intention; (2) how closely the poem may follow some fashion in poetry-composition of his time; (3) whether or not the poem is part of a sequence, and how, if that is the case, that affects the reading; and (4) what reading makes the poem best as a work of art for the given reader.

 

For me, a die-hard new critic, the author’s intention is irrelevant, except insomuch he explicitly reveals it in his work. If known, though, one should certain consult it to see if it helps one discover thing in the poem that one would have missed if not looking for them.

 

For me, it makes sense to investigate the compositional fashions of the time a poem was composed and use what one finds out about it that can be applied to one’s reading of the poem.

 

For me, a poem’s being explicitly, or even weakly implicitly, part of a sequence (as well as part of a poet’s ouevre) should also be taken in consideration. I as a poet, for instance, am almost obsessed with celebrating the coming of spring; so it would make sense for someone finding an ever-so-slight connotation of that in a poem I recently wrote about Columbus to accept it as in that poem (if he wants to).

 

For me as a reader of a poem, though, what is most important is what the poem’s text by itself can plausibly be said to say by itself that will maximize my aesthetic experience of it. If for instance, Milton tells me his poem justifies Jehovah’s treatment of the rebellious Lucifer (or whatever the devil is called in the poem [I haven’t read it for a while and have a lousy memory for names and the like] but I go along with Blake in finding Lucifer justified, and Jehovah a tyrant, I have no trouble ignoring Milton. I don’t find any explicit authorial intent behind Sonnet 18, so have no trouble taking the poem as what it on the surface is—a celebration of summer. (That’s a joke, but only here; in truth, I argue just that in the book I began but left hanging a while ago on Sonnet 18; I accept that the poem is doing other things, but consider them less important in the poem than summer.)

 

I vaguely know that nutty Platonic allegorical sequences were in vogue when Shakespeare wrote his sonnets, but don’t find inflicting allegory on sonnet 18, which is hard to do, for the most part, without straining worth doing—because, to my taste, the sonnet works much better as a lyrical poem taken for what it is on the surface. Similarly, church steeples work best for me not as glorifications of some god, or as avenues to Heaven—or as phallic symbols—but as celebrations of mountains or simple height and of Man’s ability to create.

 

I find Ian Steere’s reading of the first 126 sonnets as a sequence easy to go along with, I don’t find it a smooth sequence. It does near-certainly make the addressee male. But I don’t care. The plausibility of the sonnets as a sequence (or haphazardly organized collection) about the poet’s relationship (when it was worshipful) with a young XY-chromosome girl simply indicates authorial intention. But when what he wanted to say conflicts with what his poem just as plausibly can say (the celebration a poet’s female opposite for her feminine physical beauty and feminine temperance, etc.), I grant the reader the right, again, to ignore authorial intent.

 

Conclusion: there’s nothing wrong with trying to determine how the poet wanted his poem read, nor with determining how fashion may have influenced it, nor with fitting it to a sequence with a view of finding the author’s intentions for the over-all sequence, or finding what one can plausibly interpret the sequence to best mean. But these ways of involvment with Sonnet 18, or any work of art should not keep one more interested in what it can do for him aesthetically from taking it only for the pleasure its words, by themselves, can give him.

 

 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.