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     Thomas Wytt's Poetry

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    Abdul-Settar Abdul-Latif
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    PostSubject: Thomas Wytt's Poetry   Fri Feb 08, 2008 4:20 am

    Wyatt is the first English poet since Chaucer to make use of Italian vernacular models in his verse, drawing on the rich legacy of Italian verse that developed from the thirteenth century on alongside the nascent humanism of the Italian city states. Italian authors like Petrarch often switched between the humanist and the vernacular modes of expression, although the two projects — on the one hand the recovery of classical literature, history, philosophy and value systems together with the development of the linguistic tools to accomplish this recovery, and on the other the forging of a literature in a modern European language that would be as rich and as long-lasting as that of Greece and Rome need — need to be differentiated. Early renaissance influences in England in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were classical and humanistic, and it was French culture, if anything, that influenced the manners, arts and mores of the court. Wyatt and his contemporary, the earl of Surrey, were the first English poets to imitate the Italians, and while Surrey does so with some technical skill and produces attractive verse, Wyatt adopts Petrarchan expression for deeper and more creative purposes. After their deaths, however, there was to be a delay of two decades or more before poets again founded their output on Italian models, in a different context and with different motives.
    Wyatt is presented to you in the course material as an example of a courtier poet, writing for a côterie of aristocrats at Henry VIII’s court. Roger Day suggests that what he wrote, however, was not just a diversion for himself, or an entertainment for his friends and their king, but "poetry that embodies and exemplifies the exercise of power at the heart of the state"; that reflects Wyatt’s life, and his dangerous political and sexual relationships. It is poetry that prompts us to consider not just the poet’s situation, emotions and intentions, but the position of women in courtly society; and how the courtly love tradition could be a medium for thinking and feeling that transcended the conventionally entertaining and witty.
    Both Wyatt and Surrey travelled in Italy on their king’s behalf, both became translators and imitators of Petrarch’s sonnets and songs. Their adoption of an Italian style was in part a response to the fact that Italy was becoming fashionable as a source of courtly manners and accomplishments, but, at least in Wyatt’s case, it must have been that the emotional and formal structure of Petrarchan love poetry, its ability to express complex emotional experience, the feelings of the lover torn between conflicting impulses — human love and sexual gratification on the one hand, and the rejection of the world for the divine, a conflict producing guilt, shame, anxiety, intolerable tension and uncertainty — seemed apt to his own circumstances. At the same time it could be enlisted in the games of courtly love played by courtiers. Petrarchan love poetry was nothing new in the Italian court — it amuse the king to introduce it to the English court.
    I refer you to Dinah Birch’s summary of the characteristics of Petrarchism in Block VIII, both for the story of Petrarch and his beloved Laura, and for a summary of some of the emotions, tensions and contradictions that are central to this form of verse-making. You might also want to bear in mind Waller’s interpretation of the attractions — and repulsions — of the style. He argues that "playing at love" had deep-rooted psychological as well as aesthetic attractions for the poets that adopted the Petrarchan model; and in some ways this pattern of behaviour can be seen as perverse, with Petrarchism incorporating "the major fantasies of patriarchal gender assignments and sexual pathologies"… sadism and masochism, exhibitionism, voyeurism, and other specialist tastes. The beloved is idolised and fetishised; she is not allowed to be the subject of her own desire; the lover wants to possess her exclusively; if she rejects him, she is castigated as cruel and punishing. Petrarchan poems deal alternately in themes of erotic attraction, sadistic punishment and masochistic repulsion. The mistress is cruel, alluring, hard-hearted, frustratingly chaste; idealisation and fear walk hand in hand, but when the beloved does respond the male seeks ways to assert further power over her; at the same time his rejection of her becomes a statement of male autonomy. Waller’s debt to Freud here produces an interpretation in which Petrarchism is intimately bound up with the "premier male perversion that seeks to come to terms with the fear of the beloved’s overwhelming power, fetishism" — the male lover deals with the beloved best through erotic associations with her shoes, clothing pets, portraits, locks of hair, smells and sounds; he "aestheticises her"; her beauty and desirability are a compliment to him; the power of her physical presence is no longer a threat. By the same token the lover’s rejection by the absent, unkind, heartless, beloved is received masochistically — he burns, he freezes, he enjoys the pain of denial and waiting, and the possibility that after pain will come pleasure and gratification.
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    Ammar Jamal



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    PostSubject: Re: Thomas Wytt's Poetry   Tue Jan 05, 2010 4:59 pm

    very nice Smile Very Happy
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