ENL 6236 Restoration Literature
Reading: A Collection of Poems Written Upon Several Occasions... 1673
Poems Upon Several Occasions by Mrs. A. Behn ... 1684; both available through Early English Books (database).
Barbara Benedict: “Reading and Heteroglossia in the Restoration,” chapter two in Making the Modern Reader: Cultural Meditation in Early Modern Literary Anthologies (Princeton UP, 1998) 70-108.
Scholarship Presentation: Dori Davis, on Elizabeth Young’s “Aphra Behn, Pastoral and Gender,” SEL 33.3 (1993): 523-543.
Oroonoko Presentation: Jeff Spicer
DUE: Post #13 and ESSAY
For our reading this week, I would like for you to review the two Restoration miscellanies listed above through Early English Books Online. Please review the books as whole objects, and then choose some poems to focus on more closely. It may be helpful to print the table of contents. Also, select one or two poems from each collection to print out and bring to class. Please be prepared to discuss why you chose the poems you did (and you will not earn points for being guided by brevity). I have assigned the chapter from Benedict to give you some ways to understand the emerging genre of the printed literary anthology. Benedict argues that the book form instructs the reader in how to read. Consider how the format, titles, arrangement, and the poems themselves invite certain ways of reading and legislate against others. I have copied the whole chapter, though you may want to read only the beginning. I also have included the bibliography, so the document appears much longer than you will need to read.
I. A Collection of Poems
Benedict makes a case that the court miscellanies (such as the 1673 collection above) form a juncture between manuscript culture and print culture, with different expectations for audience and readerly behavior. What might such difference be and how do these anthologies demonstrate them?
Benedict argues that the verse miscellanies represent writing that is fashionable, topical and contemporaneous, but the transfer to print changes the nature of the writing and reading experience. “By printing fashionable subjects and style of the moment, moreover, these court anthologies extended them beyond that moment. Once such works were reproduced in the relatively permanent form of the printed collection, both the contemporaneity and the exclusivity of the original text and audience were muted” (71). How might this work?
Evaluate: “The central vehicle for the convergence of manuscript and print traditions is the court anthology” (72). What cultural gaps does such a work attempt to bridge between a court and a general readership? How does it do so?
“Foreshadowing the novel, these compendia permit what Mikhail Bakhtin calls ‘heteroglossia’ the articulation of opposing cultural traditions and voices within one context” (73). What evidence do you find for this?
“Restoration anthologies imitate carnavalesque liberty” regularized “within uniform covers.” To what extent can you find evidence for such carnivalesque liberty in the example from 1673?
Comment: “By juxtaposing political and love poetry in the vernacular, these collections ‘politicize’ sex and ‘sexualize’ politics with metaphors of courtship” (74). How is this different from the satires of the period?
“The court anthologies that popularized the verses of Rochester and other Restoration wits demonstrate the transferral of court culture into public print. This poetry particularly suited the anthology because it represented elite taste and appeared in brief, conventional forms that were easy to read. As Dustin Griffin has observed, these ‘court poems,’ vaunt the social power of wit by their verse and treat apolitical themes. Because his verse mocked elite culture even while celebrating it, Rochester’s lyrics especially bridged diverse audiences” (82).
Benedict makes similar claims for Behn. What about the poetry of Rochester and Behn might appeal to elite AND general audiences? Does the term “heteroglossia” help you define this characteristic?
II. Aphra Behn’s Poems Upon Several Occasions (1684)
Evaluate the formatting for this volume. What does it emphasize? How does it represent the female poet?
Do you think the introductory poems add to our understanding of the volume? Of Behn’s poetry? What are they DOING there?
Janet Todd quotes a letter of Behn’s to her publisher Jacob Tonson, requesting 30 pounds for the book, not the agreed upon 25, because she was in desperate need, and because she had labored on the pretty translation The Isle of Love. Todd suggests that even at 25 pounds, Behn’s income was respectable, though it did not reach the paycheck of Dryden for a translation (50 pounds) or the 250 pounds he received for his Fables in 1700 (Secret Life 325).
Dryden was rumored to have promised a puff piece for the volume, but ultimately did not contribute. “Most likely he demurred when he read the book with its erotic poems. He was no longer as sure of Behn as he had been in 1680 when he received her ‘Oenone’ for his volume. Eligising the young poet Anne Killigrew, formerly Mary of Modena’s maid of honour, he paused to lament that the muse had been made ‘prostitute and profligate… / Debased to each obscene and impious use” – although happily Anne Killigrew’s poetry was ‘Unmixed with foreign filth, and undefiled’” (326).
If Dryden’s Ode on Anne Killigrew offers a statement of poetics and gender, what might Behn’s collection offer in contrast?
Note the different printed versions of Behn’s poem “The Willing Mistress”: first entitled “Song” in the Drollery (1672), and in her third play, The Dutch Lover, “Amintas led me to a Grove,” and in the collected works of 1684 “The Willing Mistress” (discussed in Benedict p. 84). What are the implications of the different titles and contexts and how do they change the way we read the poem?
In general, look for qualities that mix high and low culture, court and general audiences, love and politics, sexual and chaste lyrics, oral and print conventions, classical and contemporary traditions. Look for thematic clusters and shape in the book as a whole.