Ambition, Rank, and Poetry in 1590s England
- List Price: $35.00
- Binding: Hardcover
- Publisher: Univ of Illinois Pr
- Publish date: 04/01/2001
John Huntington uncovers a form of subtle social protest encoded in the writings of aspiring Elizabethan poets. He argues that these writers, while recognizing that their very survival depended on the favor of wealthy patrons, nonetheless invested their poetry with a new social vision that challenged a nobility of blood and proposed a nobility of learning instead.
Ambition, Rank, and Poetry in 1590s England focuses on the early work of George Chapman and on the writings of others who shared his social agenda and his nonprivileged status, including Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, and Edmund Spenser as well as neglected writers such as Matthew Roydon and Aemilia Lanyer. Rather than placing poetry in the service of traditional social purposes -- pleasing a patron, wooing a woman, displaying one's courtly skill, teaching morality -- these writers held up poetry as important for its own sake: an idea taken for granted in much modern aesthetics.
Through slippery, double-edged language and imagery, Chapman and other poor poets tried to speak to those of their own station without attracting the attention of the powerful people served by the status quo. By means of this precarious enterprise, poetry became a declaration of cultural presence and the poet constructed his or her own social importance apart from, and sometimes in opposition to, the established hierarchies.