Lyrical inheritance: The poem-as-child trope and artistic production in early modern England

Stephanie Leigh Pietros, Fordham University


In "Lyrical Inheritance," I argue that, conceiving of poetry as productive of reputation and hopefully long-lasting legacy, early modern lyric poets used the language of generation to identify problems and test solutions to threats posed to that legacy in a rapidly changing and modernizing literary climate. In Philip Sidney's and William Shakespeare's sonnet sequences, the trope is the means of engaging debates over whether imitation or invention produces the best poetry, and in articulating poetic production to be inflected by numerous non-authorial parties, contributes to our understanding of early modern notions of authorship. In Astrophil and Stella, the trope imagines a poetry that can exist by circumventing this dichotomy, thus memorializing the poet alone; however, related texts' use of the trope positions poetic creation as a more communal process than the sequence allows. Shakespeare's Sonnets revalues imitation as a positive mode of poetic production because the trope imagines writing as a co-creative process between the beloved and the poet. The second half of the dissertation treats the non-amatory verse of George Herbert and Anne Bradstreet; I find that for these poets, the trope functions as the means to probe problems with the self-promoting nature of poetry as legacy. The Temple positions God as the superior writer in an attempt to downplay the writing self so that the verse properly exalts the ultimate creator. Bradstreet's verse claims itself as the means by which the poet will continue to shape her living legacy after her death, thus striving to mitigate the possibility that these autonomous children will reflect upon their mother in a negative way. Ultimately, tracing the trope in these works finds it to be employed in metapoetic consideration of the impact of the current literary climate on poetic creation and function.^

Subject Area

Literature, English

Recommended Citation

Pietros, Stephanie Leigh, "Lyrical inheritance: The poem-as-child trope and artistic production in early modern England" (2012). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3560150.