Lucy Hutchinson and the classicisation of scripture
Women’s poetry and classicalauthors:
Lucy Hutchinson and
the classicisation of scripture
Introduction: the distant muses – early modern women poets and
arly modern women poets’ search for cultural authority and poetic
voice involved a vexed, sometimes contradictory relationship to literary
models (as Sarah Ross and Line Cottegnies explore further in chapters 2
and 3). Classical poetry was especially awkward for women writers to accommodate and imitate, for a variety of social and cultural reasons. Greek
Reading classicalauthors in
Capgrave’s Life of St Katherine
To characterise John Capgrave as a writer of ‘literature’ has been,
until recently, to court controversy, if not outright dissent. In his
foreword to the Early English Text Society’s edition of Capgrave’s
Life of St Katherine, Frederick Furnivall spares no time to consider what, if any, literary merit might attach to the work, being
instead concerned to provide a rather patronising author portrait
before launching into an embittered attack upon Carl Horstmann’s
In examining early modern women and the poem, this book explores how women use poetry, and how poems use women, in England and Scotland in the period 1550–1680. Several decades of critical writing on 'women's poetry', 'gender and poetry', and the representation of women, or gender, in poetry have produced a rich and complex critical and scholarly field. The book looks at the primary and secondary evidence concerning two key elements in the analysis of early modern women's writing, namely, women and the poem. It first explores the way women understood the poem in terms of the reception, influence and adaptation of past models and examples, working from the reception of classical texts. It focuses on the resources women writing poetry knew and encountered in chapters on classical inheritance, the religious sonnet sequence and the secular sonnet sequence. The book then examines the world of reading and readers, and looks at poems in terms of friendships, quarrels, competitions, coteries, networks and critical reception, both then and later. It also emphasises the tales that poems tell, and how those stories both register and shape the understanding of women and the poem in the world of potential readers. In examining women and the poem, the use of women as signifiers and bearers of meaning in poetry is as significant as women's literary production.
philosophical works whose wide currency and canonical status had never lapsed, Petrarch was prompted to write his own letter back to Cicero, ‘as to a contemporary friend, with the familiarity of long acquaintance, as if forgetting the passage of time’ ( tamquam coaetaneo amico, familiaritate quae mihi cum illius ingenio est, quasi temporum oblitus ). 13 This was followed in later years by a letter to Seneca prompted by his rereading of Octavia , another to Cicero, and more to other classicalauthors. When, inspired by the examples of Cicero and Seneca, he finally compiled a
in otherwise non-comic contexts was not restricted to the medieval period; classicalauthors could be similarly inclusive. But some neoclassical critics regarded the receptivity of the Elizabethans to this aspect of their classical sources as evidence that the age of Shakespeare had struggled to ‘emerge from barbarity’. 81 Thus, where George Chapman’s Iliad followed its Homeric source in being funny in places, Pope, in his later translation, was compelled to ‘correct’ his predecessors’ lapses of decorum. In Jessica Wolfe’s words, ‘Chapman is far more
in value, whatever their motivation. We cannot escape the sense of a time of crises that prompted extraordinary gestures, turning the classicalauthors’ texts on their heads. These were not necessarily the innate bloodthirsty rites of a savage people but the responses of communities undergoing the rupturing dissolution of their own social systems and influenced by new concepts of violence wrought by armies on the move, if not actual conquest. Formal Roman era burials or interments in bogs are also known, particularly in the UK (Stevans and Chapman 2020 ).
This chapter, which notes that ruins have traditionally been thought of as uncanny, haunted places, deals with the fragments of past civilisations and with several classical authors: Virgil, Horace and Lucan. Ruins have often been associated with the supernatural, either because it is believed that ruins are haunted or because the ruins are themselves strongly identified with corpses or ghosts. Ruins have a particular affinity with allusion, as both can be described as fragments that invite the reader or viewer to import a missing original to complete the picture. The discussion notes that, when used as an uncanny allusion marker, ruins dramatise the later author's sense of belatedness.
The Introduction begins by placing the present volume in the context of previous and current work on the subject of medieval knowledge. It goes on to give an outline of medieval perspectives on the meaning, value and transmission of knowledge, noting the influence of classical authors and tracing the development of ideas about knowledge through the writings of key Christian thinkers. Isidore of Seville is identified as the key influence of the medieval encyclopaedic tradition and particular attention is paid to the authoritative work of Augustine, Bede and Aquinas. The introduction relates aspects of these medieval perspectives to specific chapters of the book and also highlights the relationship between religious and secular traditions. It ends with a succinct outline of each chapter.
The Ages plays are remarkable for their dramatisation of classical myth and lavish use of spectacle. However, Thomas Heywood did not consider that they should be reduced to a show. From his peculiar combination of William Caxton and the classics, myth and mythography, he meant to draw a coherent poetic design. Of the five plays, The Silver Age seems the most heterogeneously assembled and provides a field to test the plausibility of some unifying design based on Heywood’s understanding of classical myth. This chapter looks at the play from the perspective of Heywood’s interest in mythographic compendia such as Natale Conti’s Mythologia, and traces how he interwove their multiple versions of individual myths (Hercules, Proserpina) with material from Ovid, Claudian and other classical authors. It shows how a seemingly episodic assembling of diversified material harbours a mesh of echoes, ironic associations and startling collisions that bear evidence of a polyphonic imaginative pattern.
An experienced craftsman, Thomas Heywood was aware of generic requirements and expectations. Yet he also liked to confront different discourses, to fuse them or make them jolt against one another. When inspired by the stories of Antiquity, his writing involves acts of remembering, through dismembering and blending. This chapter considers how his composition, combining segmentation and selection with imaginative connexions, reflects reading experiences, which can be partly reconstituted from his system of borrowings and quotations in such works as Gynaikeion and The Hierarchie of the Blessed Angells (1635), as well as plays such as 1 Iron Age. Close readings of Heywood’s account of the Amazons, or the fate of Pyrene, reveal a knowledge of mythographic treatises, compilations and commonplace books, alongside classical authors and contemporaries. His mythographic readings structure his way of thinking about myth which, as his handling of themes like birth-giving suggests, is not devoid of empathy for women.