Aristotle’s Poetics has been thought to be inaccessible or misunderstood in sixteenth-century England, but this inherited assumption has drifted far from the primary evidence and lagged behind advances in contiguous fields. As a member of the corpus Aristotelicum, the shared foundation of Western education until the late seventeenth century, the Poetics enjoyed wide circulation, ownership, and interest in Latin and Italian as well as the original Greek. Placing the Poetics in its intellectual context suggests a very different narrative for its reception in English criticism, one that accounts for a multiplicity of readings and uses on both sides of the academic divide. Some of those readings—in Cheke, Ascham, Rainolds, Sidney, and others—are considered in this article, and directions are proposed for future research in what remains a rich and mostly unworked vein of literary history.
This article examines the role of Samuel Taylor Coleridge as a critic of William Shakespeare. It discusses the loss of Coleridge's notebook for the Lectures on the Principles of Poetry, which made it difficult to accurately assess his criticism on Shakespeare. The article suggests that the innovations of Coleridge's criticism came out of the depths of his own mind and years of thinking on the principles of poetry, while his close reading of Shakespeare provided him with the necessary figures, accidents, and minutiae to substantiate his claims.
This article reviews recent scholarly work on the connections between rhetoric and literature in the period 1500–1700. It describes the historicist turn in the wake of Brian Vickers’s In Defence of Rhetoric (1988) and uses the five canons of rhetoric (inventio, dispositio, elocutio, memoria, actio) to illustrate and extend recent methodological developments in the field. Through a series of case studies, the article outlines four principal future directions for the study of Renaissance rhetoric. First, it advocates a more context-specific analysis of rhetorical concepts. Second, it calls for more sustained attention to rhetoric as an art of argument (and therefore to its overlaps with dialectic and with scholastic forms of thought). Third, it argues for the importance of ecclesiastical and neo-Aristotelian handbooks of rhetoric. Fourth, it encourages consideration of the material dimensions of rhetorical theory and practice.