“Imagining Self and Inwardness: Towards the Invention of Poetic Subjectivity in the Sonnets of Sidney and Shakespeare”
Medieval and Early Modern English Studies Volume 14 No. 2 (2006)
This paper takes up Sir Philip Sidney’s Astrophil and Stella and Shakespeare’s Sonnets in a way of re-thinking about the early modern subjectivity in England. First I try to locate the privileged interiority in lyrical poems as a dominant trope of Renaissance English culture; particularly Sidney’s sonnets are read as an exemplary case in constructing a private and internal locale of heart as a symbolic space of autonomous individual. Then, I discuss Shakespeare’s Sonnets in terms of how the persona puts his poetic subject itself into question by interweaving his gendered notion of sexuality with the genres of sonnet and panegyric. Where Sidney begins with underscoring his heart as a locus of his poetic inspiration, Shakespeare introduces the procreativity of sexuality with which to problematize the act of sonneteering and the sonneteering-self and thereby question the fundamental nature of the panegyric genre. In discussing the representative Renaissance English poets, this paper tries to prove that the self-representation of the poetic persona in lyrics turns out to be commensurate with the desire to turn the performative sense of identity into an impossible ideal of the masculine subjectivity and thereby to construct inwardness as a field of intelligibility.