2nd assignment

Marks are posted to D2L and papers will be handed back in class tomorrow (Tuesday).

Here are some points you might have made in your answers on the second assignment. I would not have expected anyone to make all of these points, and there is no “right” answer. Indeed, many of you did well even though you were arguing from a misreading of your chosen poem, because of the quality of your arguments.

Some general points on the Petrarchan sonnet: it was a bit of a trick question, as most English writers did not write Petrarchan sonnets but developed an English tradition based on, but divergent from, the Petrarchan original. So a strict editor, as some of you turned out to be, would have a very slim book. Readers at the time would more than likely have understood the term “Petrarchan sonnet” to mean a traditional love sonnet which followed the convention of the suffering lover and the distant beloved. All of which is to say, there is no right or wrong answer here as to whether or not to include either of the poems.

Shakespeare’s sonnet: This one caused considerable confusion to many of you. Somewhere, the Bard is twirling his moustache and smiling. In a nutshell, the poet/narrator compares his beloved to a housewife who puts down her child to chase after an escaped chicken, ignoring the child’s tears in her effort to catch the bird. We are not told what the beloved is seeking, only that she is interested in something or someone other than the poet and he can only hope that she will return to comfort him once she has found it. The lover is cast in the unflattering role of the crying child, stumbling after its mother. Such a homey, domestic, labouring-class scenario is at odds with the usual tone and imagery of love poetry, and probably strikes many readers as comic, even slapstick, until the anxiety of the desperate child becomes more clear. In this way Shakespeare undercuts the conventions of the genre and gives us something ultimately more moving.

Wroth’s sonnet: This sonnet is the first in her sequence, which one of you elegantly labeled the “origin story.” In it, she sets up her persona as the poet/narrator. Her imagery is more conventional than Shakespeare’s, and she invokes the classical figures of Venus, goddess of love, and her son, Cupid. But her poem is as much of a departure as Shakespeares, though in a different way: by claiming to be “a lover,” as a female subject, and as a female poet. The story is simple: the poet/narrator falls asleep and dreams she sees Venus and Cupid. Venus holds many burning hearts, one of which is largest. This one she holds to the poet’s chest and orders her son to shoot his dart, which he does. The poet wakes, hoping it was all a dream, but discovers she is “a lover.” Until this point, this had been a largely masculine role, so here lies the disruption of the poem. Notable is the way in which being in love is depicted: it is violent and painful, and the poet/narrator does not welcome it. This is part of the Petrarchan tradition: love as an affliction.

Below find scans of each poem:

Any questions, you could leave a comment here, or bring it up in class.