Froward masters : the seduction lyrics of Thomas Wyatt and Philip Sidney

Hull, Elizabeth M, Department of English, University of Virginia
Cantor, Paul, As-English-Eng Lit Ops, University of Virginia
Maus, Katharine, Department of English, University of Virginia
Kinney, Clare, As-English-Eng Lit Ops, University of Virginia

This dissertation explores the seduction scenes in the lyric poems of Thomas Wyatt and in Philip Sidney's Astrophil and Stella. It critiques, in the works of critics such as Stephen Greenblatt, Arthur Marotti, Ann Rosalind Jones and Peter Stallybrass, Maureen Quilligan, and Clark Hulse, recent examples of a scholarly habit of retreating from the sexual level of the seductions portrayed by Wyatt and Sidney, or treating it as an invitation to look through it to the real, covert, philosophical, rhetorical, or political agenda. Even critics who begin to examine these lyric seduction poems as sexual scenes quickly shift their attention away.

The primary work of this thesis is to place the poems of Wyatt and Sidney in the tradition of seduction literature, and to open the exploration of the sexual persuasion and sexual behavior they display. I offer readings of Wyatt's lyrics that demonstrate the variety of seduction strategies from which he chooses techniques to fit a particular woman. None of the individual strategies has any intrinsic value. The value of the strategy is given to it by the woman if and when she finds it appealing; the value of the poem that deploys the strategy comes from the. woman as well. Generally, however, the seducer in a poem by Wyatt offers something of value, then threatens to take it away or bestow it elsewhere; he uses his audience as allies in his pursuit of the woman.

Sidney's Astrophil desires Stella because she seems to him to be the most attractive person in creation. To attract her, he has to be as attractive as possible himself. That can be best achieved by reflecting her desirability. Astrophil imitates Stella for the same reason the child imitates the mother, to gain her love. He imitates the source of sweetness, laboring to give birth in the first sonnet, and nursing children he makes Stella father later on. Successful in taking on Stella's role, he is nonetheless not successful in taking up residence in Stella's heart. The sequence ends with the hunter trapped in his own snare.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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