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  • Sidney and Junius on Poetry and Painting: From the Margins to the Center
  • Gavin Alexander
Judith Dundas . Sidney and Junius on Poetry and Painting: From the Margins to the Center.Cranbury: University of Delaware Press, 2007. 288 pp. index. append. illus. bibl. $57.50.ISBN: 978–0–87413–982–2.

Sir Philip Sidney's theory and his practice can be hard to connect. The Defence of Poesy proposes exemplars of idealized virtues, and is built on visual metaphors: poetry is a "speaking picture," offering "notable images" to the "eyes of the mind." The Arcadia is rich in well-drawn descriptions of scene and person, but offers flawed characters and deceptive appearances. Pictures, literal and metaphorical, are important to Sidney. His hero Pyrocles falls in love with the picture of Philoclea before he ever sees her: that narrative is one of many that play with the terms of Sidney's poetics, in which, as Judith Dundas puts it, "The inner image, the image in the mind's eye, becomes both the inspiration for art and the effect of art, joining [End Page 1028] poet and reader" (70). A study that focuses on the visual in Sidney's literary and hermeneutic theory will have much to tell us.

Excellent work has already been done in this field, by the likes of Forrest G. Robinson (1972) and S. K. Heninger (1988). Neither earns a mention in Dundas's new book, perhaps because —both a strength and, inevitably, a weakness of her approach —she offers at least three rather different projects in parallel. The material is exciting. In the early 1990s the hand of Franciscus Junius was identified in a copy of the 1613 Arcadia (by that date a complete works, including the Defence and Astrophil and Stella) from the collection of Junius's nephew, Isaac Vossius. Junius was a philologist who lived in England in the 1620s and 30s, working as a tutor and librarian for the noted art collector the Earl of Arundel. Out of this milieu came Junius's important treatise De pictura veterum (1637), which he himself translated into English as The Painting of the Ancients (1638). Built from quotations, this gathering of ancient wisdom on the visual arts is part history, part theory, and part defense of art. Dundas is able to show that the extensive marginalia in the 1613 Arcadia have many interesting points of contact and coincidences of approach and method with De pictura veterum. This enables a fascinating triangulation: Sidney's visual poetics in the Defence (with Junius's occasional annotations); Sidney's practice in the Arcadia (copious, learned, and varied annotations this time); and Junius's own synthesis of his reading in the visual arts in De pictura veterum.

What this means, however, is that the book is rather caught between offering a full, historicized account of Sidney's visual poetics—what he might mean in the Defence and how that might shed light on what he does in the Arcadia; an account of one reader's engagement —personal, anachronistic, but also intelligent and scholarly —with Sidney's works, on the model of recent and important work in the history of reading; and a genealogy of Junius's own theories. The two writers have much in common, and Junius has clearly learned a great deal from Sidney. But they are also divided by nearly sixty years and large differences of intellectual make-up and context, as well as method and aim. Those differences do not always emerge very clearly.

In the first two chapters Dundas looks at Junius as annotator —in other books as well as the Sidney —and at his use of Sidney and Spenser in his treatise. Three chapters then consider the classical allusions that make up the bulk of Junius's annotations —those that identify an intertext in Sidney as well as those that are more tangential. Chapter 6 examines Junius's plot summaries and rhetorical annotations, and the final chapter develops a conclusion about the relations of word and image, imagination and memory in Junius's theory. Two appendices describe Junius's important use of some classical authors not read by Sidney: "Longinus," Callistratus, and the Philostrati. The text...


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pp. 1028-1030
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Archived 2009
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