“Lyric Poetry”

Sunday, 10am-11:30am

306 Wheeler

Moderator: David Marno


Sharon Harris (Fordham University)

The Orbit of Motion and Music in the Eighth Song of Astophil and Stella

One element of Sidney’s claim that poetry is to delight, teach, and move has long been overlooked: poetry’s ability to move includes actual motion. In Sidney's Eighth Song from Astophil and Stella, when the desired motion stops, the poet becomes inarticulate: his song ends. Considering poetry's relation to music, discussed by Hollander, Berley, and Sidney himself, poetry as music taps into the powerful music of the spheres and their motion, but the actual motion of the lovers in the Eighth Song can index the song's effect as it is articulated and heard. The poet's song positions him as an agent at the center of a soundscape to draw his lover physically closer, much like gravitational orbit. Bruce Smith’s and Gina Bloom’s studies of the soundscape and voice in the early modern period set up a useful framework here, but the literal motion between the poet-sounder and beloved-hearer as a marker of (in)articulacy deserves closer consideration.

In Orphic fashion Astrophil attempts to draw Stella to him. The poem traces their coming together through a repeated pattern of what is within sight, within earshot, and finally what is close enough to touch. Ultimately the song seeks not oral articulation and aural reception but motion and approximation. But when Stella rejects Astrophil's music and flees altogether, it is through the motion of her departure and the silence of her absence that she reveals the song and poet's failure: clearly they failed to move her to him. Thus the poet's devastating final line, “my song is broken,” denotes the boundary of the song's articulation as well as its efficacy. The line signals the ruptured motion of the lovers' micro-orbit as it also echoes the displacement of the geocentric cosmological model in this post-Copernican period.

Sharon Harris has received degrees in music and humanities from Brigham Young University and the University of Chicago and is currently pursuing a PhD in literature at Fordham University. She has worked as a teacher, conductor, soloist, and administrator with various musical organizations around the county. Ms. Harris has also served as the managing editor of Opera Quarterly of Oxford University Press and on the editorial staff of 19th-Century Music of Fordham University Press.


Elise Lonich (Indiana University, Bloomington)

Building an Aesthetics of Betrayal in Shakespeare’s Sonnets

Often in Shakespeare’s Sonnets, the closing couplet couples poetics and love making, formally begetting a memorial to both the speaker and the addressees.  While memorialization is certainly at issue in the Sonnets, this paper focuses on the paradoxical ways in which memorialization functions throughout Shakespeare’s Sonnets via models of translation and betrayal.  Betrayal indicates action, but the language of the betrayer is often marked as treacherously subtle, making it difficult to adequately “read”, “hear”, or discern meaning.  Translation, while lauded by its supporters as a means for greater intelligibility, carries with it a long history wherein “traduttore, traditore”—every translator is a traitor.  Here, however, I show that betrayal and betrayers are not necessarily pejorative acts and figures.  One common definition of betrayal in the period is an action that “offers up or over”, connoting revelation, similar to the sense that “give away” implies in Sonnet 16.  The definition also implicates acts of personal, or interpersonal, sacrifice.  Unlike Fineman’s work in Shakespeare’s Perjured Eye, I propose to align this weirdly inarticulate voice of the betrayer with translation to bring to light the ways in which the lyric voice and poetics of the period build an aesthetic of betrayal.  The Early Modern lyric responds to shifting cultural ethics regarding mutual obligations and expectations by developing forms of translation that can point up betrayal’s aesthetic force and create a social imaginary wherein interiority and performed interiority—both personal and within a coterie—are always subject to both translation and productive betrayal.

Elise Lonich is a PhD student at Indiana University, Bloomington, where she studies Early Modern lyric poetry and religion.  She is currently writing her dissertation, tentatively titled “Betraying Form: Humanism, Friendship, and the Early Modern Lyric.”


Francesca Gentile (University of Oregon)

“‘Twixt Two Equal Armies:” The Silent Other as Muse and Adversary in John Donne’s Songs and Sonnets

In Theaetetus, Plato’s Socrates explains that the rhetorician is not “a bag full of arguments” and that “none of the arguments comes from [him]; but always from him who is talking with [the rhetorician]” (161b). The Other is the source of rhetorical invention, and Socrates likens the rhetorician’s work to “midwifery;” the rhetorician merely assists in the delivery of ideas already alive within the Other. Building on scholarship that recognizes John Donne’s Songs and Sonnets as poetic argument, this paper explores this notion of midwifery and other similar schemes for rhetorical invention to interrogate the role of the silent Other with whom Donne’s speaker, the “poet-rhetorician,” engages. Although she does not “speak with” the poet-rhetorician, the silent Other is a forceful presence, acting as fertile muse and worthy adversary for poet and rhetorician alike. I argue that the Other’s silence is generative, rather than reductive or representative of absence, and results in a proliferation of figuration and possibility with which the poetic mind and heard argumentative voice must contend. Combining Barbara Estrin’s study of the anxiety associated with representing the female figure across the Petrarchan tradition with the aforementioned conceptions of rhetorical invention, this paper explores the speaker both as poet who struggles to control the Other, and his own verse, through limited representation and as rhetorician who depends upon the Other’s inventive capacities.  Ultimately, I read the silent Other as a figure who is heard through her silence, a silence that speaks louder than the poet-rhetorician’s own words.

Francesca Gentile is a second-year doctoral student in English at the University of Oregon. She specializes in rhetoric and composition studies, pursuing a particular interest in contemporary rhetorical theory.