Indecorous ThinkingFigures of Speech in Early Modern Poetics

Indecorous ThinkingFigures of Speech in Early Modern Poetics

Colleen Ruth Rosenfeld

Print publication date: 2018

ISBN: 9780823277919

Publisher: Fordham University Press

Abstract

Indecorous Thinking is a study of artifice at its most conspicuous: it argues that early modern writers turned to figures of speech like simile, antithesis, and periphrasis as the instruments of a particular kind of thinking unique to the emergent field of vernacular poesie. The classical ideal of decorum described the absence of visible art as a crucial precondition for the rhetorical act of persuasion, the regulation of civilized communities, and the achievement of beauty. To speak well in early modern England, one spoke as if off-the-cuff. In readings of three major poets—Philip Sidney, Edmund Spenser, and Mary Wroth—this book argues that one of early modern literature’s richest contributions to the history of poetics is the idea that open art—artifice that rings out with the bells and whistles of ornamentation—celebrates the craft of poetry even as it expands the range of activities we tend to attribute to poetic form. Against the social and aesthetic demands of sprezzatura and celare artem, artifice at its most conspicuous asserts the value of a poetic style that does not conceal either the time or labor of its making.