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Moral conversion and prodigal authorship
Rémi Vuillemin

Barnabe Barnes, who published Parthenophil and Parthenophe in 1593, and A Divine Centurie of Spirituall Sonnets in 1595, is a unique example of an author releasing two printed sonnet sequences, one secular, one sacred, in two years’ span. The chapter argues that the two works might be understood as a Petrarchan diptych consistent with Barnes’s authorial strategy. The godly poems of A Divine Centurie seem devised to remind the reader of the lewd verse of Parthenophil and Parthenophe and to highlight the connections between the two works; the purpose of such intricacy was probably for Barnes to produce a representation of himself as having undergone a moral conversion – a Petrarchan career pattern that Richard Helgerson described in his Elizabethan Prodigals. Though Barnes’s staged conversion was probably targeted at the Bishop of Durham, the fact that his second sonnet sequence was printed, and therefore also aimed at a wider readership, calls for further hypotheses. Barnes’s recantation might have had to do with his desire to protect his reputation from the damaging effects of the Harvey–Nashe quarrel in which he was indirectly involved.

in The early modern English sonnet
Ever in motion

This volume questions and qualifies commonly accepted assumptions about the early modern English sonnet: that it was a strictly codified form, most often organised in sequences, which emerged only at the very end of the sixteenth century and declined as fast as it had bloomed at the turn of the century – and that minor poets merely participated in the sonnet fashion by replicating established conventions. Drawing from book history, using the tools of close reading and textual criticism, it aims to offer a more nuanced history of the form in early modern England – and especially of the so-called ‘sonnet craze’. It does so by exploring the works of such major poets as Shakespeare, Sidney and Spenser but also of lesser-studied sonneteers such as Barnabe Barnes and Gabriel Harvey. It discusses how sonnets were written, published, received and repurposed in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England, taking into account interactions with the French and Italian literary traditions. The collection also discusses current editorial practices and provides the first modern edition of an early seventeenth-century Elizabethan miscellany which claims the Earl of Essex, Spenser and ‘S.P.S.’ (presumably Sir Philp Sidney) as authors.

Abstract only
Laetitia Sansonetti, Rémi Vuillemin, and Enrica Zanin

The early modern English sonnet has rarely been assessed as a category, and recent works have rather chosen the wider category of lyric – one whose historicity poses a number of difficulties. Despite the expansion of the canon in the last decades, and the related development of stimulating critical approaches based on gender, nationhood, race or religious studies, our vision of the sonnet is still affected by the ‘parody theory’, which oversimplifies the perspective of the sonneteers, discourages research on their works and does not recognise that parodies can also testify to the success of their targets. The loose codification of the sonnet and the variety of the contexts in which sonnets appear need to be taken into account and to be placed in the context of Petrarchan poetics in other countries, in particular France and Italy. The present volume proposes to do so using the input of book history and the tools of a historicised formalism, focusing in particular (but not only) on the key period of the 1590s.

in The early modern English sonnet
Accounts of the quatorzain in Italy, France and England in the second half of the sixteenth century
Carlo Alberto Girotto, Jean-Charles Monferran, and Rémi Vuillemin

This chapter assesses the reception and the significance of the early modern sonnet by focusing on poetic treatises of the second half of the sixteenth century, when the fashion for sonnets peaked in Italy, France and England. In Italy, where the sonnet had reached formal maturity and a canonical status based on established models, poets were seeking room for innovation to compete with their prestigious forebears, exploring new forms of both sonnet and poetic collection and further dignifying the fourteen-line poem. In France, by contrast, poets and theorists sought to codify the sonnet, imitating the Italians and rejecting earlier vernacular poetry, often insisting on its epigrammatic dimension – they did not, however, discuss the development of sonnet collections. In England, the sonnet (mediated by French precedents) took a much longer time to be codified, and retained during and after the considered period its original meaning of ‘little song’, or short lyric poem. Addressing general questions of poetics related to the prosody and vocabulary of the English language seems to have held more stakes than determining the specificities of the English sonnet, whose textbook definition mostly corresponds to how it was seen by late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century English treatises.

in The early modern English sonnet