Sidney's poetics : imitating creation


    • Mack, Michael


Sidney's poetics : imitating creation

Michael Mack

The Catholic University of America Press, c2005

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Includes bibliographical references and index



Sir Philip Sidney's Apologie for Poetrie (c. 1582) has often been identified as a landmark along the path from poetry understood as imitation to poetry understood as creation. Critics are, however, far from agreeing on the defining features of Sidney's transitional theory. By attending to Sidney's familiarity with patristic and contemporary theological works, Sidney's Poetics shows how theological considerations shaped Sidney's synthesis of the literary-critical traditions he inherited and led him to what is in fact the first full-fledged theory of poetic creativity. No less bold than Pico's Oration, Sidney's Apologie presents an innovative poetic theory that is at the same time an innovative conception of human nature, anticipating the Romantic poets by more than two centuries. For Sidney, the creative power of the poet is the power to regenerate the reader and, through the reader, the entire world. While offering a new interpretation of Sidney's elegant and influential treatise, Michael Mack also makes a case for a new understanding of the historical process by which human beings were first thought to be endowed with the power to create - in Sidney's day a power still reserved for God alone. S howing that secularist accounts of modernity cannot explain the development of Sidney's idea of creativity, Mack offers a version of the birth of modernity in which sacred and secular values are not necessarily opposed. Unlike previous accounts, his accommodates what are now recognized to be the continuities between medieval and Renaissance culture, between the Renaissance and Romanticism, and between theological speculation and literary theory. Sidney's Poetics is essential reading not only for students and scholars of Renaissance literature and literary theory but also for all who want to understand how human beings write and read creatively.

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