"Articulation and Embodiment"

Saturday, 11am - 12:30pm

300 Wheeler

Moderator: David Landreth


Lauren Elmore (University of Southern California)

“And I have bent to throwe me downe withall”: Refiguring Suicide in Surrey’s Elegies

While one cannot ignore tropes of suicide in the Earl of Surrey’s elegiac poems (which have led some to characterize his entire poetics as “suicidal”), no critic yet has examined Surrey’s peculiar innovations in the representation of suicide, which I see as marking an inexpressible but unmistakable affective connection to a lost friend. Contrary to the prevailing trend of lyricists since the early modern period of elegizing a friend in order to emphasize the survivor’s own suffering (see Sir Thomas Wyatt’s “The piller pearisht” for an early example, particularly relevant to a study of his admirer Surrey), Surrey’s poems of mourning do not aggrandize their speaker. Instead, Surrey’s implications of suicide, subtly departing from the noble Roman archetype, offer an ultimate form of self-effacement. Suicidal thoughts conclude “When Windesor walles” and “Dyvers thy death,” literally stopping the speaker’s voice, and by eliding the speaker’s imminent end with that of Pyramus the latter poem marks especially the speaker’s connection with his departed friend as intimate and embodied, exceeding typical expressions of friendship in the period. I posit that Surrey’s emphasis on the friend’s body, to the neglect and ultimate hazard of his own, forces the typical male reader of the period into a queered relation vis à vis the male friend (instead of a female lover) as a beloved object; as the speaker’s body gives in to emotion and recedes, the friend’s body comes foreground as a symbol of virtue and the sole object of veneration.

Lauren Elmore is a Ph.D. student in English and Gender Studies at the University of Southern California. She is interested in the English lyric tradition broadly, from the Renaissance through the Regency era, and writes on lyric representations of gender and sexuality, particularly masculinity and male homosociality.


Noel Radley (Santa Clara University)

Silent Bodies of the Protestant Reformation: Sir Thomas Wyatt’s Penitential Psalms

Composed in the early sixteenth century, Sir Thomas Wyatt‘s Paraphrase of the Penitential Psalms is the most obvious text connecting the Tudor poet to the English Reformation. Since translating scripture into the vernacular was considered to be inherently reformist, scholars have used the Paraphrase as evidence to view Wyatt as a Protestant writer with an inward ethos.  However, critics have not paid as much attention to sections of the Paraphrase that contain, notably, startling images of the human body’s appendages and wounds, language of flesh and bones, domesticated and wild animals, worms and leeches, soil and dust. The figure of David, the king of the Jewish people c. 1003–970 BC, is the site of the bodiliness dramatically performed across the Paraphrase. This paper will open up a discussion of the paradoxical relationship between Protestant anti-materialism and a vivid—even visceral—material imagination. Drawing on methods from body studies and techno-criticism, the paper will assess the gaps in the study of Protestant poetics, in an attempt to understand why New Criticism, New Historicism, and religious studies methods are typically silent as to the embodiments of Protestant hermeneutics.  As we identify the epistemological basis of Protestantism writing, can we cross the boundaries between the Protestant mind and its abjected body, between Catholic and Protestant forms of corporeality?  Can we trace the movements between the earth-bound physicality of writing bodies and poetic transcendence?  

Noel Radley is a PhD candidate in English at the University of Texas at Austin and a new member of the faculty this year at Santa Clara University. Noel began her career in Renaissance English with New Historical methods, but found she also had an abiding interest in the intersections of technology and writing. Her dissertation “Renaissance Technogenesis: Embodied Mind and Sixteenth-Century Poetry” poses poetry as a technology of mind, with arguments that anticipate our current transitional moment as a post-print society.  Noel's interests include Protestant Poetics, Sir Thomas Wyatt, Religious Studies, Shakespeare, Renaissance Women Writers, Digital Humanities, Techno-criticism, Gender and Body Studies, Sustainability and Environmental Activism, New Media, and Visual Rhetoric.


Jane Wanninger (Vanderbilt University)

“Thoughts No Tongue Can Tell”: Confession, Coercion, and Violent Silence in The Spanish Tragedy

Confession figures prominently into the climax of Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy. At the end of this play, Hieronimo realizes his plan to avenge the death of his son by coercing the killers to reenact their crimes in a fatal performance which functions as their public confession. Hieronimo presents his audience which this spectacle of death and revenge, but when he himself is called upon to confess—to recount fully and officially why he did what he did—he refuses, violently biting out his own tongue to represent his refusal to comply with the court’s desire for the catharsis of a coherent public narrative of his actions. Hieronimo’s desire that other crimes be reiterated in language is belied by his subsequent refusal to provide a narrative of his own actions; his forceful performance of silence at the play’s end is a dramatic example of negative self-authorship amidst the popular demand for the ritual of confession. Confession is a ritual predicated both on the violation of expected or acceptable behaviors, and the power of personal accountability and public expression of responsibility. As I will demonstrate through my discussion of this play, however, the tantalizing promise of full revelation and social catharsis embedded in narratives of confession can never fully be realized. Expressions of self-hood are, as this play demonstrates, contingent on theatrical and bodily coercion, social hierarchies, and the discourses surrounding individual exchanges. Accordingly, mediated speeches and willful silence become powerful exemplars of the limits of personal expression.

Jane Wanninger is a doctoral candidate at Vanderbilt University.  She is currently at work on her dissertation, entitled “Confessing Subjectivity: Power and Performative Agency in Early Modern Drama.”