Journal Article

Poetry, Anatomy, Presence


In his Defence of Poesie Philip Sidney borrowed the vocabulary of anatomization to remark of poetry that ‘all his kinds are not only in their united forms but in their severed dissections fully commendable’, analysing the features of verse as though he were considering a man's ‘parts, kinds, or species’. It is argued here that printed anatomies proved useful to early modern literary theorists not because they recognised how poetry's diverse parts added up to a systematic and relational whole, but rather because they provided a rich spatial vocabulary, encompassing height and depth, to describe afresh the experience of being immersed in a poem. Printed anatomies were experimenting at this time with how best to realise three-dimensional structures on flat pieces of paper in order to capture life-like human presence. When the printed book closely approximates the occasion of the anatomy itself, the anatomical subject comes surprisingly and vividly alive. Early modern poets were devoting themselves with increasing commitment in the 1590s and early 1600s to theorizing this same illusion: that poetry can step out of the confines of print and paper, and into the world.

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Craik, Katharine

Oxford Brookes departments

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences\Department of English and Modern Languages


Year of publication: 2017
Date of RADAR deposit: 2017-04-28

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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