Monthly Archives: November 2013

The Sound of Virtue: A Recording of Sidney’s Defence of Poesy

For a few years now (since 2007), I’ve taught an advanced introductory course on Elizabethan poetry. I mean ‘poetry’ in the broadest possible sense, beyond even Sir Philip Sidney’s meaning — of any fictional narrative that teaches and delights, that creates “notable images of virtues, vices, or what else.” I mean ‘poetry’ as all specimens of non-dramatic writing, as my curriculum designers would have it.

Each year, my students have begun the course by reading all of Sidney’s treatise on the meaning and functions of poetry. It’s like Northrop Frye once said about classical mythology, or the Bible (I forget which): when you know these stories well, when they have sunk to the bottom of your consciousness, every story you read thereafter gets layered on top of their landscape of narratives and images.

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