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Chamber Music

Chamber Music: Elizabethan Sonnet-Sequences and the Pleasure of Criticism

Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Chamber Music
    Book Description:

    A book of post-modern criticism, influenced by many modern literary critics, including Barthes and Eco, that analyses the sonnet sequences of Sidney, Spenser, and Shakespeare from an interpretative angle as well as reevaluating the Renaissance sonnets.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7282-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
  5. 1 Prelude a new intellectual art
    (pp. 3-25)

    1 There is no such thing as modern criticism.

    2 It is time there was.

    3 There has never been anythingbutcontemporary criticism of early texts. What is new is the need to enshrine or to justify it.

    4 The informed non-academic reader is on the verge of extinction; but may yet be recovered.

    5 If our concerns do not include him, no imaginable future model of society will pay us for talking to each other.

    6 Much contemporary professional scholarship is a mutant strain of Calvinism. By turns solemn and aggressive, it betrays the Renaissance through instruction without...

  6. 2 Three easy pieces sonnet analysis
    (pp. 26-42)

    The following studies were written out of regret that Renaissance criticism had not assimilated semiotics, and a desire to test a specific method by practical application. Their grammar and lexicon, accordingly, is Michael Riffaterre′sSemiotics of Poetry,² a discourse of method the elegance of which deserves not only to be known but to be employed. It is also the only semiotic theory specifically designed for poetic texts, and while Riffaterre himself concentrates mainly on nineteenth- and twentieth-century French poetry, his discussion of an image in a Ronsard sonnet (82–6) usefully prepares the ground for further work in this area....

  7. 3 Polyphony the plural of the text
    (pp. 43-55)

    Nowhere does ′accomplishing the plural of the text′ seem less difficult, or less necessary, than with regard to the sonnet-sequences. Few texts before the modern era announce their plurality so flagrantly. Each is Many-in-One and One-in-Many, without ever giving us more than a hint of method or of paradigm. Each is printed in a certain order, the reliabitity of which is at once contradicted by whatever scanty evidence exists.³ Each addresses – or addresses itself to – a beloved and a reader, and proudly leaves us in the dark about their ontological status. Each is written in the first person...

  8. 4 Tempo/Sequenza textual time in Astrophil and Stella
    (pp. 56-76)

    ′Sidney says ...′ we used to write; and, taught by us, our students still do. I am not here concerned with the authorial fallacy, or with the verb′s logocentricity (should we learn from the Moslems and the Jews? Citers of the Koran and of the Scriptures begin, ′It is written ...′), but withys; which, in the phrase quoted, is a sign. Had it beenid, those two words would have announced an anecdote, a story, part of a tale or a biography. The English equivalent of thepassé simple, ′said′ would have triggered our readerly expectations of narrative: true...

  9. 5 Two-part invention love/ruins/SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS
    (pp. 77-100)

    Let us assume something. Bear with me, follow me into the half-light of a possibility. Imagine a poet looking into a mirror. What does he see there? A man? A poet?Anotherman?Anotherpoet? Or a lover, or a landscape? A story? An infinity of stories? (Not to be read as a series of rhetorical questions. Not to be read quickly. Please to go back and read it again. This time, takingtime. After each question-mark, taking the time to envisage the process just mooted. To think about it.)

    A draughtsman, says Derrida, when he looks into a mirror,...

  10. 6 Theme with variations skin/deep: beauty
    (pp. 101-113)

    Between these quotations lie Stella and Elizabeth, the Friend and the Dark Woman. They lie at the still centre of their texts, deep in the place where codes cross, in the noisy silence, the periphrastic self-evidence, that is Beauty.

    Our access to Beauty′s code is through a rapidly closing door. We cannot read it, much less interpret it, until we first recognize that the word itself is obsolete. There is scarcely a contemporary literary text that uses it as a serious concept. The history ofbeautyis the archaeology of a migration, a series of displacements: from philosophical to artistic...

  11. 7 From the New World Will Archer′s diary
    (pp. 114-131)

    In youth before I waxèd old ... No, I must stop confusing myself with men. There was never a time when I, a blind and agèd child, was not old, nor will a time ever come when I shall not be young. Men are born, live, love, and die. I act, I suffer – yes, it happens, myth and appearance notwithstanding – and these actions and sufferings take place in time (they also take time in place, but that is another Histoire). Yet I am young and have been old always, and I am blind nor shall I ever see....

  12. 8 Ein Heldenleben courtier, text, and death
    (pp. 132-149)

    Philip Sidney was in turn courtier, poet, and hero. The first two are comprehensible to us: his latest biography is subtitled ′Courtier Poet.′ Heroes, on the other hand, we are not good at. So let us try to do it differently – let us try to come to the hero (and to the poet) via the courtier. The courtier (and the) text.

    On 10 March 1575, Sidney′s Continental mentor Hubert Languet advised him in a letter whom to cultivate in public life (William Cecil for convenience, Francis Walsingham and Robert Beale for friendship), and added:

    I write you all this...

  13. 9 Death and the maiden architecture
    (pp. 150-173)

    Shortly after 6 a.m., a slow hand closed her eyes.³ The room smelt of incense, and of smoke from the great candle they had helped her to hold while the liturgical prayers were read. The priests and friars filed out, and walked down the stairs into the crisp October dawn. Now it was the women′s work. They washed her body, disposing carefully of the soiled water. A portable camp-bed was set up, and covered with a cloth of gold. The body, shrouded but with the fine-boned white face left uncovered, was laid reverently upon the bier.

    There were no loud,...

  14. 10 Divertimento the text as desiring-machine
    (pp. 174-190)

    A ′problem′ like that of theAstrophil and Stella′s first three quartos – the pedigree of the first, the mere appearance of the second, and the economics of the third – focuses attention upon the neglected ′downstream′ aspect of the sonnet-sequence text: its distribution, its consumption, and (in some cases) its status asobjectof desire. It stimulates that side of research which resembles police work,² and encourages us to explore ways in which traditional scholarship and modern critical practice may be of mutual society, help, and comfort.

    The story of this sequence′s printing – unlike, say, that of the...

  15. 11 Four-part fugue indeterminacy and undecideability
    (pp. 191-217)

    When the bed first answered back, Astrophil wondered if he was going mad. Then he remembered that he had merely lost his Reason, and with a sigh of relief gave it – and other interlocutors – his full attention. Beyond the window, the highway muttered. A dog′s bark and the cheep of a sparrow joined in. With a malign whisper, Cupid spoke to him from the saddle. A friend′s voice (was it old Hubert again?) shouted to make itself heard. A coach rattled by, its curtains possibly drawn. And behind it all, the unceasing murmur of the Muse. Not for...

  16. 12 Encore irregardless
    (pp. 218-232)

    A student writes: ′Irregardless of what Professor Kuin said in class, I wish to argue thatAstrophil and Stellais somewhat autobiographical in mode.′ And I am moved to consider, not the argument of his sentence (which can be dealt with only so many times), but its initial word. Such a considering, of course, suggests a code of its own: irritable, middle-aged teacher fighting the purist′s losing battle for a prescriptive lexis. This code is met in senior common rooms and faculty clubs, and surfaces occasionally in ′concerned′ journalism. Yet ′irregardless,′ the word that sums it all up, will not...

  17. Appendix: Discourse and its choices
    (pp. 233-238)
  18. Notes
    (pp. 239-280)
  19. Index
    (pp. 281-289)