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Flashcards in Philip Sidney The Defence of Poesy Deck (8)
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1

Context

-Crisis of poetic language in Renaissance england. Literary criticism claims of Poetry's immorality from the church. common criticism was that it was essentially corruptive, which lead to a field of defence writings. (it is ethical)
-Poetic language of this era was being morally challenged, but also under ontological threat by the classical languages which were seen as essentially purer than the vernacular.
-Sidney writing in response to Gosson's critic on immortality of poetry and Plato's republic. Thus defines is dominated by arguing its ethical worth. It "teacheth what virtue is" which will thus "lead a man to virtue"
-draws on Aristotles poetics and idea of textual mimesis
-Climate of late 16th century: Issue of national identity at the time: English and classical languages put in tension due to the increase in humanists, who favoured the classical languages, which were in conflict with the Reformation; which demanded a move away from latin to accord to the church of england.
- was likely written in 1595

2

style

-Theoretically constructed justification of poetry, in a style similar to the Roman orator Cicero, and is art of rhetoric.
-adopts the voice of the renaissance humanist.
-structured as a classical oration in three parts: defends dignity of poetry in comparison to history and philosophy; deals with the objections made against poetry; and examines current state of english literature, comparing the english vernacular to other countries ,commenting on meter and rhyme. Todorov’s ‘Structural Analysis of Narrative’

3

Aims

- To modernize writing in English: done by imitating and adopting classical and contemporary European literature.
-wants to encourage experimentation with different meter and verse for.
-elevate poetry above history, and in unison with philosophy in ethical teachings. both ethical and enjoyable.

4

Humanist approach comparing to history

-claims poetry is perceived as a respected part of classical antiquity.
-compares historians to poets. sets up a counter argument before combatting it with his own case. rhetorical technique.
-says historians are too focused on "the truth of things" that he forgets the reason behind it. the "peerless poet performs both". criticises how histories can portray things falsely: glorify monarchs or distort them. Poetry is more ethical as it depicts the triumph of virtue and failure of wickedness.
-The "golden" words of poetry, as allowed by God, have the power to elevate and transform nature to a "second nature". other "bronzen" professions do not allow nature to change into something better. poets most resemble god.

5

Humanist approach to philosophy

- philosophers were first poets.
-philosophy puts up a "thorny argument" which people find hard to grasp due to the absence of a guide.
-"no man is so much philosophos as to compare the philosopher in moving with the poet"
- philosophy guides you through life, but you need the pleasantries of poetry to entice you to read such philosophies. EG by reading about achilles or Aeneas, children learn of valour and justice.

6

addressing the three accusations of poetry

- that it is inferior to other "fruitful knowledges" (he goes through each genre depicting its qualities and glory.
- that it is "the mother of lies": says history lies more.
- that it encourages sin and infects society with desires.

7

religious appeal

-poetry is associated with the divine word: advises against having an "earth-creeping mind".
-the psalms are poems
-In Rome the poet was called "vates" from "vaticinium" - the divine prophet.

8

Poetry as imitation

-"poetry is an art of imitation" a "speaking picture"
-to "teach and delight": renaissance writers classified "good" language as being inhabited with rhetorical qualities such as clarity and purity. ambiguity was seem as sin. word "delight" poses problem as its explicit to pleasure, and thus sin and excess.
-example of describing elephants and rhino's: teaching. poetry unlike philosophy can give a "well painted picture". informative and creative.