Paradoxia Epidemica: The Renassissance Tradition of Paradox

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    nel complesso poco individualizzante, owem troppo astrattamente descrit- tiva, del tutto notevole e nuovo t invece il capitol0 su Michelangelo as a Baroque Poet, soprattutto per lanalisi dello spirit0 e delle forme barocche in Michelangiolo, anche se t chiao che barocco qui non vale come defini- zione storica, ma come appmimazione tematico-stilistica, dimostrandosi il Clernents ben consapevole che storicamente it would be more accurate to say that these conceits [i concetti, appunto, e il vocabolario barocchi] were restored by Michelangelo to the Petrarchan love poetry where they.. . originated (p. 46). Ma a parte questo, a1 critic0 va data lode per aver sagacemente individuato e illustrato con abbondanza di osservazioni, di richiami eruditi, di riferimenti culturali di ogni genere, tutti gli aspetti e i problemi di unopera tanto uguale a se stessa nella singolarith del suo stile scabro e concettoso, quanto diversa e molteplice nella particolaritP delle sue forme e dei suoi contenuti. A tal proposito, cib che il Clements osserva: We are less in need of evaluations of Michelangelos poetry than clarifica- tions of it, precisando che those who denied him the name of poet or overpraised him as poet have served little the exegetical function (p. 340), i: esattissimo, e pub essere generalizzato: in realtA anche le pOche monografie scritte in passato con criteri infonnativi su Michelangelo poeta, e gli stessi commenti alle singole poesie, non ofiirono mai pih di una som- maria e superficiale immagine della complessa realth del canzoniere b u o narrotiano, suscitando, almeno in chi sapeva come stavano realmente le cae, il desiderio di unopera come questa. Ci si potrP pertanto rammari- care che nel colmare la grave lacuna, il Clements si sia spinto fino a1 limite di una parzialith opposta a quella degli esaltatori e dei denigratori di Michelangiolo poeta, trascurando la sintesi come quelli avevano trascurato lanalisi; ma cib non toglierh certo a questopera il diritto di esser com- press tra i numeri fondamentali della bibliografia buonarrotiana, preasa- mente tra i primi, indispensabili sussidi per accostare e penetrare il corn- plesso mondo spirituale del grande maestro.

    E. N. GIRARDI Universitci Cattolica del S . Cuore Milano

    Paradoxia Epidemica: T h e Renaissance Tradition of Paradox. By ROSALIE L. COLIE. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966. xx + 553 pp. $12.50; l5.

    In the preface, Rosalie &lie describes her book as a reading of some pieces of Renaissance literature (p. xi). This is an accurate description, but a good deal too modest; the sixteen essays in the volume include topics in science and the visual arts as well as in literature. The actual

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    range of the volume, inadequately conveyed by its title, perhaps cannot be conveyed at all except by a straightforward listing of the subjects of the essays: (1) Rabelaiss Gargantua and Pantagruel (Books 1-111); (2) Love in the lyrics of Petrarch and Sidney; (3) Love in the lyrics of Donne; (4) The concept of infinity in Traherne; (5) Foreknowledge, eternity, and structure in Paradise Lost; (6) The theme of communication in Herben; (7) The concept of Nothing, especially in Macbeth and Othello; (8) Pascals arguments for the existence of a vacuum; (9) The principle of representa- tionalism in the visual arts; (10) Seventeenthcentury collections of scientific paradoxes; (11) Being and Becoming in Spenser (Hymnes, Garden of Adonis, and Mutability cantos); (12) Self-portraiture in Renaissance paint- ing and literature, especially in Montaignes Essays; (13) The concept of knowledge in Davies, Greville, Davies of Hereford, and Donne; (14) Bur- tons Anatomy of Melancholy; (15) Paradoxes in King Lear; (16) The con- cept of suicide in Hamlet and Biathanutos.

    I have spelled out the subjects of the individual essays because the reader tends to suppose from the title that the volume is a discursive history of the paradox, whereas it is not. Feeling the pressure of the convention that a certain developmental order be imposed upon academic discourse (pp. 38-39), Colie provides an introduction, an epilogue, and an apparatus of running titles and half-titles to serve as a frame for her essays. But she is philosophically opposed to discursive treatment for the subject of paradox, arguing that The ideal decorum for a book on paradoxy would be a form in which the reader is at once naturalized and surprised by the passage from one subject to the next (p. 39). Thus it is her intention that the book should be, not a history of the tradition of paradoxy, but a group of discrete e s a p on various Renaissance subjects which are only loosely related to the subject of the paradox. Even the introduction and the epilogue reflect this intention. In the former Colie includes two sections on the nature of paradox, but she also treats Erasmus Praise of Folly, Platos Pamenides, Nicholas of Cusa, Pico, and Castiglione; in the latter she points out the opposition to paradox in Galileo, W e and Spinoza.

    The disjunctive method of the work applies not only to the relationship among the chapters, but also to sections within essays; the reader is surprised even by the passage from one paragraph to the next. In the first essay on Donne, for example, Colie treats the flea-fly tops first on page 103 and later on pages 130-31. Similarly, in the essay on Paradise Lost, she discusses Miltons theory of creation on pages 173-74 and then again on pages 182-85. Inherent in this method is the principle that each topic is dealt with suggestively rather than comprehensively. For example, Miltons theory of creation de dco is contrasted (p. 182) with the orthodox

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    theory of creation ex nihilo, but is not related to the alternative theory, creation ex chuos, which is actually the source of Miltons theory of poetic creation.

    If I have emphasized the problem of the method of reading Colies book, it is because that is the central problem. Just as in reading Nietzsche or McLuhan one must set aside the normal expectation of discursive exposition and read by paragraphs, so one must read Colie by paragraphs, and for the same reason: the authors philosophical conviction that the pursuit of truth (at least on the subject of paradoxes) is best served by a disjunctive method.

    When one accepts this method, Colies work becomes extremely reward- ing. She is enormously learned. Having mined the primary sources of Renaissance learning (which on this subject include the works of people such as Lando, Dornavius, Bettini, and Dunton), she is able in almost every essay to advance the frontier of knowledge. And her scholarship is accurate as well as thorough. The most illuminating of the essays for the student of English literature is probably the essay on Spenser, but in every essay she is informative. She apologizes for having omitted Bruno, Cervantes, and Sir Thomas Browne from this harvest, but the other pieces of Renaissance literature which she reads here give ample evidence of the sharpness of her scythe.

    SEARS JAYNE Queens College City University of New York

    Drydens Poetry. By EARL MINER. Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press, 1967. xx + 354 pp. $10.00; 75s. Earl Miners study makes one thing clear: the critical revolution of the

    twenties and thirties has now come full circle. What was once New and sub- versive is now respectable and academic, as routine and predictable as the drearier philological exercises of an earlier generation. Ironically enough, what is best in Drydens Poetry is not the critical analysis, but the his- torical interpretation of the longer poems in relation to contemporary po- litical, philosophical, and theological documents. What a relief i t is to reach the relatively solid chapters on the biblical and political allegory in Absalotn und Achitophel and on the theological debates of The Hand und the Punther, after the mazy if not confused explications of Annus Mirabilis and Muc Flecknoe (two words, not one, as printed throughout this book). Like many pieces of so-called exegesis, the commentary on these earlier poems and on some of the later ones sounds highly disciplined, but is not so in fact. There is much reliance on terms that are illdefined and that do