Silencing the Sirens: Patronage and the New World in Spenser, Daniel, and Shakespeare
The sirens' place within the reason/passion antithesis has been the subject of several important scholarly inquiries about Early Modern English literature. While scholars have considered how early modern authors used sirens to explore the dangers of poetic expression, they have largely ignored the siren's place within the era's ideas about the New World. As early modern poets explored the sirens' ability to incriminate their poetry's capacity to please the senses, they also encountered the sirens' newest abode, Virginia, England's foothold in the New World. This study argues that the New World context for sirens creates unexpected resonances within the works of early modern authors who explore the siren songs' criticism of sensual pleasure within their works. This project expands the understanding of sirens in early modern English texts by suggesting that they often reveal the poet's uncertainty about the sensual and passionate nature of poetry, and that they also frequently include a connection with England's imperial expansion in the Americas. In particular, this study focuses on close readings of three authors: Edmund Spenser, Samuel Daniel, and William Shakespeare. The study is based on cross-disciplinary scholarship that includes literary analysis, historical research, and musical analysis to examine several genres ranging from lyric poetry to drama and from epic poetry to the Elizabethan air. After establishing an Early Modern context for sirens, this text explores book II of The Faerie Queene, "Ulysses and the Syren," and The Tempest. This dissertation argues that Spenser's New World praise of Queen Elizabeth self-critically reveals itself as sirenic flattery, and in a sense might act as Spenser‘s own poetic pursuit of temperance; that Daniel‘s poem, with its eloquent ability to please patrons with contrasting attitudes about the New World displays an eloquence that silences itself, and that this silencing reflects Daniel‘s concern over poetry‘s appeal to the senses; and that Shakespeare reveals how his play might be read as a sirenic temptation that acts as propaganda for English imperial expansion in America.
British and Irish literature
0593: British and Irish literature