The Imperial Dryden: The Poetics of Appropriation in Seventeenth-Century England

Overview

John Dryden (1631-1700) was the first great poet, observed W. J. Bate, to labor under "the burden of the past." Over the years, he read, wrote about, and adapted or translated the works an extraordinary number of European writers; these works in turn formed the textual ground from which his own art emerged. In The Imperial Dryden, David Bruce Kramer shows how Dryden used the efforts of other writers "not to save himself the trouble of making but to make anew." Tracing the course of the poet's career, Kramer ...
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Overview

John Dryden (1631-1700) was the first great poet, observed W. J. Bate, to labor under "the burden of the past." Over the years, he read, wrote about, and adapted or translated the works an extraordinary number of European writers; these works in turn formed the textual ground from which his own art emerged. In The Imperial Dryden, David Bruce Kramer shows how Dryden used the efforts of other writers "not to save himself the trouble of making but to make anew." Tracing the course of the poet's career, Kramer focuses first on Dryden's approach to the French poet and critic Pierre Corneille, who had developed a subversive strategy of "misquoting" his predecessors - a strategy Dryden soon learned to use against Corneille himself. He then explores Dryden's more open plundering of secondary French poets; this tactic constituted a kind of literary "imperialism" that echoed England's own imperial ambitions regarding foreign wealth. Finally, Kramer shows how, after the Revolution of 1688, Dryden's poetic persona shifted from that of plundering male to vulnerable neuter to, at moments, a disenfranchised female wishing to be seized and "impregnated" by the spirits of her great male predecessors. Kramer's study extends beyond the works of Dryden himself into several larger questions of literary history: the effect of dynastic changes and national revolutions upon poetic alliances and ruptures; the manner in which a poetic sensibility defines itself in concert with, and in opposition to, shifting groups of writers and schools; and the ways in which personal reverses may alter gender identification. Demonstrating how poets' relations with their predecessors can modulate from agonistic struggle to uneasy but productive truce, Kramer proposes a series of frameworks for discussing the effects of political and cultural circumstance upon poetic production.
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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Kramer (English, U. of Arkansas) shows how, over the years, Dryden (1631-1700) read, wrote about, and adapted or translated the works of an extraordinary number of European writers; and how those works, in turn, formed the textual ground from which his own art emerged. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780820315430
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/1994
  • Pages: 192

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Abbreviations
Introduction 1
Ch. 1 Dryden and the French: Misquotation 16
Ch. 2 Onely Victory in Him: The Imperial Dryden 63
Ch. 3 Both Woo'd and Wooing: The Rhetoric of Translation 116
Conclusion: The Stilling of the Cannon 139
Appendix: Dryden and the French: A Chronology 147
Notes 155
Index 181
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