Thursday, January 23, 2020
All for Show Ã¢â¬ The Post-Petrarchan Poetry of Wyatt, Sidney, and Spenser
The difficulty of discussing the representation of women in the work of sixteenth century English poets like Sir Thomas Wyatt, Sir Philip Sidney, and Edmund Spenser is the need to address authorial intent in its historical context. As a critic, one cannot attribute to words what the author did not intend; however, one can attribute intentions that the author did not word. For example, it is easy to justify the objectification and subordination of women in the English-Petrarchan sonnet tradition but is it entirely factual? Does object of desire necessarily mean desired object? Does such a designation deny the agency or even apply to the beloved? The question to ask is whether contemporary criticism can be applied retroactively; that is, whether theories concerning objectification or Ã¢â¬ËotheringÃ¢â¬â¢ are relevant merely because they fit. The real challenge is to decide if evidence of objectification can be discovered or simply applied to a text that has no concept of it. It is p articularly disconcerting that much of the modern renaissance criticism researched for this essay sees no possible contradiction in linking rhetorical evidence to intent; that is to say, they show little evidence of investigating the possible discrepancies between treating objectification as ahistorical and socially contextual, even when they argue for the historically situated nature of identity. One must also consider the fact that theories of objectification interpret and interrogate the text, not the author; that is unless one presumes they are the same thing. To do so, however, commits one to a series of requisite and problematic assumptions. The first of these is the exchange of mimesis for art as an imitation of the author, a shadow of a shadow. Speaking his... ...ing Astrophil and Stella to implode under its own contradictions Sidney ensures that its only lasting consequence is the affect it has on the beloved. In the same way Spenser tries to forge a tangible bond between himself and the beloved by rendering them both physically present in the words of Amoretti, Sidney tries to promote his signifiers to signifieds in an effort to exchange Ã¢â¬Å"semiological [intimacy] for sexual desireÃ¢â¬ (Stephens 93). The difference is that Spenser offers the beloved a shared space while Sidney seeks exclusive control of the courtship. Much like Wyatt tries to have the last word in Whoso List to Hunt, Sidney and Spenser write their sonnets in anticipation of the belovedÃ¢â¬â¢s response. As their efforts to adapt her subjectivity show, all three poets recognize the beloved as powerful, but is this the power of a reader or a social and sexual equal?