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Sidney's Poetics

Imitating Creation

Michael Mack

Publication Year: 2012

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.

Published by: The Catholic University of America Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ix-xiv

This book is a study of Sidney’s poetic theory and its role in the development of the idea of human creativity. Although the Apology has often been identified as a landmark along the path from poetry understood as imitation to poetry understood as creation, critics are far from agreeing on the defining features of Sidney’s transitional theory. ...

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pp. 1-16

Sir Philip Sidney’s Apology for Poetry occupies a central and even a pivotal position in both the history of literary theory and the history of ideas. It is, however, a work that easily could have gone unwritten. Poetry was, as Sidney says in the Apology, his “unelected vocation.”1 ...

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1. The History of Creativity

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pp. 17-33

Locating a single point of origin for an idea is generally difficult if not impossible. Finding that an original idea was anticipated in an earlier period I take to be commonplace. In the case of the Renaissance discovery of human creativity, it might be argued, for example, that Plato’s Symposium and Ion, works of great importance ...

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2. Sidney’s Fiction and the Allegorical Tradition

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pp. 34-53

In his artful defense of poetry, Sidney draws on a remarkable array of sources, an array that includes works not only from different periods and places but from divergent poetic traditions. Borrowing from his humanist predecessors, especially Boccaccio, Sidney justifies poetry by arguing that the first philosophers were poets and ...

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3. The Idea of Poetry

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pp. 54-80

Any understanding of Sidney’s poetics hinges on the interpretation of a handful of terms, and perhaps chief among them is “Idea.” According to Sidney, “the skill of the artificer standeth in that Idea or fore-conceit of the work, and not in the work itself. And that the poet hath that Idea is manifest, by delivering them ...

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4. The Imitation of Creation

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pp. 81-108

Not easily identified with any of the notions of “creativity” circulating today, Sidney’s idea of human creativity more closely resembles the sometimes heady late medieval theories of divine creation. Scholars who have examined the idea of creativity in Sidney’s Apology all agree that it is modeled on divine creation, but ...

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5. From Creation to Regeneration

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pp. 109-136

Notable by its absence in Sidney’s approach to poetic creativity is any great concern for the subjective experience of the poet, a concern that overshadows Neoplatonic and romantic speculation on creativity. Although creation is an explanation of origins, Sidney does not become fascinated with the originating ...

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6. The Imitation of Cyrus

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pp. 137-156

If Sidney does in fact conceive of the poet’s work as analogous to the divine work of creation and regeneration, it is surprising that he seems to abandon his theological paradigm when he proceeds from the narratio to the “more ordinary opening” of his next section, the confirmatio. Notably absent are not only lexical parallels of ...

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7. Creativity and the Origins of Modernity

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pp. 157-189

Although the idea of human creativity reaches its full flourishing in the romantic period, it is the Renaissance that bears witness to its birth. With the birth of creativity situated in this earlier period, the necessary context for understanding the development of the theory is not the subsequent shift in epistemology ...

Appendix: The Text

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pp. 191-194


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pp. 195-210


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pp. 211-216

E-ISBN-13: 9780813216218
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813213880

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 609299397
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Sidney's Poetics

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Subject Headings

  • Sidney, Philip, -- 1554-1586 -- Aesthetics.
  • Sidney, Philip, Sir, 1554-1586. Apologie for poetrie.
  • Creation (Literary, artistic, etc.) -- History -- 16th century.
  • Poetics -- History -- 16th century.
  • Aesthetics, Modern -- 16th century.
  • Aesthetics, British.
  • Poetry.
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