On Not Defending Poetry: Defence and Indefensibility in Sidneys Defence of Poesy

ISBN : 9780198793779

Catherine Bates
320 Pages
153 x 234 mm
Pub date
Mar 2017
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Sidney's Defence of Poesy-the foundational text of English poetics-is generally taken to present a model of poetry as ideal: the poet depicts ideals of human conduct and readers are inspired to imitate them. Catherine Bates sets out to challenge this received view. Attending very closely to Sidney's text, she identifies within it a model of poetry that is markedly at variance from the one presumed, and shows Sidney's text to be feeling its way toward a quite different-indeed, a de-idealist-poetics. Following key theorists of the new economic criticism, On Not Defending Poetry shows how idealist poetics, like the idealist philosophy on which it draws, is complicit with the money form and with the specific ills that attend upon it: among them, commodification, fetishism, and the abuse of power. Against culturally approved models of poetry as profitable-as benefiting the individual and the state, as providing (in the form of intellectual, moral, and social capital) a quantifiable yield-the Defence reveals an unexpected counter-argument: one in which poetry is modelled, rather, as pure expenditure, a free gift, a net loss. Where a supposedly idealist Defence sits oddly with Sidney's literary writings-which depict human behaviour that is very far from ideal-a de-idealist Defence does not. In its radical reading of the Defence, this book thus makes a decisive intervention in the field of early modern studies, while raising larger questions about a culture determined to quantify the 'value' of the humanities and to defend the arts on those grounds alone.


Part One: The Poet's Golden World
I Poetry is Profitless
II Poetry is Profitable
III Poetry is Profitless

Part Two: The Counterfeiter
I Poetry Lies
II Lies are Profitable
III Lies are Profitless
IV Poetry is Profitless
V Poetry is Free

Part Three: The Empty Chest
I Poetry Abuses
II Poetry is Useful
III Poetry is Abused


About the author: 

Catherine Bates is Research Professor at the University of Warwick. She studied English at Oxford and was a Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford, and of Peterhouse, Cambridge, before moving to the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies at the University of Warwick in 1995. She served as Head of Department from 2009 to 2014. She has been awarded a number of fellowships and prizes, including a Solmsen Fellowship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the British Academy Rose Mary Crawshay Prize for Masculinity and the Hunt: Wyatt to Spenser (OUP, 2013).

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