restricted access Rhymes and Reasons: Verse Interpolation in Golden Age Fiction
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R H Y M E S A N D R E A S O N S : V E R S E I N T E R P O L A T I O N I N G O L D E N A G E F I C T I O N Shifra A r m o n University of Florida "The Renaissance is never simply language, but always between languages." DianeWood and Paul Allen Miller (xvi) Few aspects of Golden Age fiction strike so discordant a note for the modern reader as the verse passages characteristically interspersed throughout seventeenth-century narrative. Despite my students' familiarity with contemporary musicals such as Rent and Les Mis,' they still grumble when analogous alternations between narrative and song arise in Golden Age narratives. To the argument that early prose relied on poetry to lend it cachet,1 they point to the runaway popularity of the romances of chivalry and the byzantine romance of the sixteenth century . As they see it, 'epics in prose,'2 needed no boost from poetry, least of all the bad poetry that (to their minds) clogs the page and blocks the flow of events in vernacular fiction. Scholarly response to alternations of verse and prose tends either to falls back on the preceptive truism mentioned above—that poetry was considered a necessary adornment for plain prose—or to sidestep the problem by ascribing interpolation to 'novelistic convention.' I attribute this unconcern to a disciplinary grid that segregates literary research by genre. Narrative specialists do not generally consider it their business to attend to poetic interludes, and poetry specialists likewise steer away from crossing the threshold into the terrain of verse "interpolation," darkly defined by Webster's Second Edition as "to alter or corrupt by inserting new or foreign matter." Consequently, verse embedding, with few exceptions , has fallen through the academic cracks.3 This scholarly lacuna offers little guidance to the perplexed reader seeking reasons for embedded rhyme. Worse, it leaves a conspicuous feature of Golden Age fiction open to rejection or dismissal, not on the basis of informed assessment, but merely out of incomprehension fostered by persistent neglect. I hold that early modern narrative craftsmanship owes much to the practice of verse embedding, and I further contend that awareness of the uses of verse embedding can refine our readings of Golden Age texts. My aim in the present article is three-fold: to vindicate the practice of verse intercalation by situating it within the general literary practice of generic CALIOPE Vol. 7, No. 1 (2001): pages 93-109 94 «S ShifraArmon mixing, to trace certain compositional effects and functions of intercalation , and to demonstrate how awareness of those effects and functions can animate new interpretations and insights. Therefore, after locating verse interpolation within Bakhtin's typology of hybridization, I will delineate seven performative tasks that poetic embeddings achieve for novelistic discourse. To illustrate the utility of bringing these functions to bear on interpolated texts, I will close by applying two such functions to Maria de Zayas's Desenganos amorosos.* Two Kinds of Literary Hybridization Verse interpolation represents one instance of the "generic inclusiveness " that characterized Renaissance literature, according to Rosalie Colie (4). Novelist Castillo Solorzano illustrates the Renaissance disposition toward generic inclusiveness. In praising Maria de Zayas's literary achievements , he equally applauds her narrative and her verse: Eneste tiempo luce ycampea con felices lauros el ingenio de dona Maria de Zayas y Sotomayor... habiendo sacado de la estampa un libro de diez novelas que son diez asombros para los que escriben deste genera, pues la meditada prosa, el artificio dellas y los versos que interpola es todo tan admirable, que acobarda las mas valientes plumas de nuestra Espana (Valbuena y Prat lxvi, my emphasis). As Robert Clements and Joseph Gibaldi observe of the Renaissance novella , "whereas Aristotelian-Horatian theorists of the age carefully defined and separated genres, one discovers in the actual practice of many Renaissance artists, the veritable melting of 'kinds' into one another" (226, 227). Prose fiction, which borrowed freely from oral tradition as well as from drama, exemplum, colloquy, miscellany and epic, yet resisted assimilation under the sign of any single precursor, ratifies Colie's...