Sunday, June 19, 2011

Whirlwind Tour to Get Us Back On Track

I have written down that I am supposed to blog about religion, Spenser, travel/discovery narratives, and Sidney. The problem is, I don't really feel like writing about those things. I want to start writing about drama, which is what I'm supposed to spend my time reading anyways. Ugh, Norton. Why you gotta be so big? Okay, here goes:

1) I read the Faith in Conflict section a while ago and basically think what I thought before: the Reformation was a dangerous and interesting time in English history. So many different motives for the move away from the Catholic church and the creation of the Anglican. Even after a Protestant held the throne for a while, there was still a lot of dissent, but when a Catholic came back on the throne, many English were true Anglicans. Thomas Cranmer wrote the Book of Common Prayer, which is lovely. Printing presses made it hard to suppress different religious opinions and factions. Tyndale's translation of the Bible, John Foxe's Book of Martyrs--I just don't have a lot to say about this, because it's too large, multi-faceted, and truly interesting, and I have other things I need to get to. I can't be distracted by you right now, English Reformation.

2) Spenser? Geez, that guy. What's to say? He consciously wrote in an older English style, modeling himself after Chaucer. Some of the stuff he wrote was cool; some of it wasn't. I like some of his sonnets, but I'm not interested enough to go back and figure out which ones I liked, and comment on them. I read The Fairie Queene and mildly enjoyed it. It's a chivalric romance, with knights, fairies, damsels in distress, sorcerers, fight scenes, love scenes, magic, etc. It's basically a tour through The World of Fantasy but it's hella long and I'm bored already thanks Spenser okay bye.

3) The exploration narratives . . . now there's some stuff. Both interesting and angering. Basically stories of getting all up in the business of the natives, and screwing them over. White man lands, makes "friendly" overtures towards natives in form of trinkets that white man acknowledges in his journal to be cheap and worthless. Many natives take white man for a god, shower him with gifts. Attempts to communicate. Some natives do not love/trust the white man and prophecy that more will come and kill them and take their land. (Freelz.) When natives get sick, probably from European diseases to which they are unaccustomed, these unfriendly natives are blamed. An altercation. White man establishes dominance, natives are cowed. Endless descriptions of the oddities and backwardness of the natives (they believe in many gods! their boobies hang out! they don't conquer huge tracts of land and build enormous cities! they sleep in their own excrement! [really? I doubt this.]). White man leaves, taking some of the natives with him, who, after being shown off around London, get sick and die in a far-off country where they have no friends, do not know the language, and will be buried without the traditions or even knowledge of their tribe.

The Norton's last two sentences of Drake's exploration (and this must have been edited with some eye to irony) are: "For a more kind and loving people there cannot be found in the world, as far as we have hitherto had trial." (Wait for it.) "We brought home also two of the savages, being lusty men, whose names were Wanchese and Manteo." Oh. I see. Blah blah blah natives cool blah blah blah hospitality blah blah blah oh and also kidnapping and ultimate death.

(Reading this really gets my social justice ire up, if you can't tell. I'm not sure where to put those feelings, because 1) it happened a long time ago and I can't do anything about it, and 2) isn't remarking on how stupid and terrible these Europeans were the same as the Europeans remarking on how "backward" the natives were? Shouldn't we judge people within the context of their culture? Or should we judge them from our privileged position of future knowledge? Anyways, all this is besides the point, so . . .)

4) And finally, Sidney!!!!!! In Defense of Poesy, ya'll! This is a really good piece of early literary criticism. It's very quotable and still influences us today when we discuss genre, although not so much when we discuss the point of literature. I was just talking about it in the hot tub the other day (weird sentence) to Jen Kanke Schomburg as we discussed those annoying postmodern poets who assert that poetry doesn't need to mean anything. For Sidney, literature's reason for being is to delight and instruct . . . meaning, MEANING. Literature should have meaning; it should uplift and direct its readers. In it, we imitate the excellency of God and show the righteous downfall of the wicked. He tells us about the different kinds of poetry, too: Pastoral, Elegiac, Comic, Tragedy, Comic, and Heroical.

Also according to Sidney, stop sucking, drama! Stop telling the audience that we're in a garden, and then on a ship, and then in Africa or Asia or any of these other crazy and backward places (savages live there!). Sidney's like, "Duh, you guys. I'm obviously looking at a stage, not at a battlefield! Are those swords even real? Leontes, you're obviously some dude from down the street, and not from Sicilia! And that guy over there has obviously had too much beer to drink! Are you trying to tell me that sixteen years have passed while I've been sitting here? Somebody invent the watch so I can prove them wrong! Also, gimme my ducats back." ("Oh, my daughter, O, my ducats!" Ha. Don't worry about it. Inside joke between me and Shakespeare.) Man! Drama! Amirite?

Finally, Astrophil and Stella. If there's one thing I love, it's reading love poetry between two people who are long dead. And if there's one kind of love poetry between two people who are long dead that I love the most, it is the sonnet.

If by love I mean HATE! Ha! Psyche! Got you, Sidney! I so got you! You were like, "Oh, great, she's probably going to love my poems," and then you were totally zinged! Okay, okay, though. Your poems are pretty. (Pretty lame!) They are well-written. (Well-written . . . um . . . lame!) And I really don't know much about poetry so somebody else is going to have to tell me why these are so great sometime. Preferably sometime before I teach them in the fall, because I really have nothing to say about them.

For now, I'm off to read Doctor Faustus. Marlowe's next, y'all!


Катя said...

My Research Methods paper was an overview of the history of the sonnet as genre (from the 13th century to the 21st) with a focus on the "Why on earth did anyone write these things" question. I can send it if you want a crash course in sonnet for your course prep.

Kate Lechler said...

Yes PLEASE! I find them so repetitive, and boring, especially Sidney's. I didn't mind Raleigh's or Shakespeare's as much. Help me out!