Sir Philip Sidney's Apologie for Poetrie (c. 1582) has often been identified as a landmark along the path from poetry understood as imitation to poetry understood as creation. Critics are, however, far from agreeing on the defining features of Sidney's transitional theory. By attending to Sidney's familiarity with patristic and contemporary theological works, Sidney's Poetics shows how theological considerations shaped Sidney's synthesis of the literary-critical traditions he inherited and led him to what is in fact the first full-fledged theory of poetic creativity. No less bold than Pico's Oration, Sidney's Apologie presents an innovative poetic theory that is at the same time an innovative conception of human nature, anticipating the Romantic poets by more than two centuries. For Sidney, the creative power of the poet is the power to regenerate the reader and, through the reader, the entire world.
While offering a new interpretation of Sidney's elegant and influential treatise, Michael Mack also makes a case for a new understanding of the historical process by which human beings were first thought to be endowed with the power to create—in Sidney's day a power still reserved for God alone. Showing that secularist accounts of modernity cannot explain the development of Sidney's idea of creativity, Mack offers a version of the birth of modernity in which sacred and secular values are not necessarily opposed. Unlike previous accounts, his accommodates what are now recognized to be the continuities between medieval and Renaissance culture, between the Renaissance and Romanticism, and between theological speculation and literary theory.
Sidney's Poetics is essential reading not only for students and scholars of Renaissance literature and literary theory but also for all who want to understand how human beings write and read creatively.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Mack is Assistant Professor of English at The Catholic University of America.
PRAISE FOR THE BOOK
"Mack's probing, informed study looks afresh at the central assertion made by Philip Sidney in his Apology for Poetry, the most vital Elizabethan treatise in the subject. . . . . [I]t makes a significant contribution to the large literature of interpretation devoted to the Apology, and students of 16th-century intellectual culture should not neglect it."- E.D. Hill, Choice
"In clear and concise English, Mack ranges within the zodiac of classical, medieval, and Renaissance sources in his attempt to understand how Sidney might have understood his terms. . . . Sidney's Poetics is well worth reading. . . ."—Theodore L. Steinberg, Renaissance Quarterly
"A remarkably comprehensive account of Sidney's numerous sources. . . . Sidney's Poetics will be the benchmark by which other books on the subject are judged. Michael Mack writes with admirable clarity on a complex subject. His book has the potential to become the standard in the field."—R. V. Young, North Carolina State University
"Michael Mack's Sidney's Poetics: Imitating Creation is perhaps best placed in this section on religion. Putting, as Mack notes, 'great analytical pressure' on a 'rather small portion of the Apology' (p.6), this very earnest reading interprets the 'force of divine breath' Philip Sidney ascribes to poetry straightforwardly as the power of the Holy Spirit. Through poetry, human beings can achieve their highest and divine potential, sharing in God's own creativity through the transformation of audiences, through the 'power to redeem fallen humanity' (p.11)." — Mary Ellen Lamb, SEL: Studies in English Literature
"Michael Mack . . . Proves Sir Philip Sidney read widely and well . . . Sidney's Poetics goes far to connect Sidney's new Renaissance ideas with medieval thin
About the Author
“In clear and concise English, Mack ranges within the zodiac of classical, medieval, and Renaissance sources in his attempt to understand how Sidney might have understood his terms. . . . Sidney's Poetics is well worth reading.”—Renaissance Quarterly
“Mack proves Sir Philip Sidney read widely and well. . . . Sidney’s Poetics goes far to connect Sidney’s new Renaissance ideas with medieval thinking and to refine our own ideas of the rise of modernity.”— Bibliotheque d’Humanisme et Renaissance
“[For] all scholars interested in intellectual history, Mack’s work should become a first stop for inquiries into the development of artistic creativity.”— Sixteenth Century Journal
“[A] remarkably thorough account of Sidney’s well-known and lesser-known sources. . . . This is an impressive and useful book, the interdisciplinary focus of which makes it beneficial reading across a variety of scholarly fields.”—Toronto Journal of Theology
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