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Title:The Interpolated Sonnet in Western Literature
Author(s):Krummrich, Philip Eugene
Department / Program:Comparative and World Literature
Discipline:Comparative and World Literature
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, Comparative
Abstract:The sonnet is the best-known, oldest, and most popular lyric form in Western literature. Because of its venerable tradition, internal logic, and convenient length, it also occurs frequently as an interpolated poem. It may function as a lyric interlude or as an effective device, advancing the plot or revealing something about the characters. This role of the sonnet has never received the critical attention it deserves.
The present study concerns six contexts in which the interpolated sonnet appears with particular effect. Dante's Vita nuova consists of mingled prose and verse, and the sonnets already have an impact distinct from that of longer poems--a contrast which Dante exploits. The form gains increasing importance in the pastoral romance as that genre develops, and such authors as Gil Polo, Cervantes, and Sidney turn the conventional pastoral songs to account, using both the content and the context of the sonnets. Other prose fiction of the Renaissance and the Baroque contains fewer examples, but the device still proves valuable in many cases--notably Don Quijote. Spanish comedias regularly feature one or more sonnets, usually as monologues imparting impatience, wonder, confusion or resolve to the audience. European dramatists outside Spain opt for sonnet-scenes, structured around the reading of the poem. In Moliere's Le Misanthrope, for example, Alceste must listen to a composition by a hated rival, and the resulting scene reveals much about the three characters present. Finally, the interpolated sonnet recurs in the twentieth century in two guises: as a failed attempt, symptomatic of a larger failure, and as a symbol of artistic and religious fulfillment, attained after much striving.
While many of the conclusions reached here could apply as well to other lyric forms, the sonnet enjoys particular success as a device, for two reasons: its Petrarchan associations and its intrinsic advantages. Thus it functions both as the traditional vehicle for love poetry and as a compact, flexible form. The authors studied rely just as heavily on the connnotations of the sonnet as they do on the verses themselves. Thus the device often acquires a significance far beyond that of the poem, and the sonnet-scene provokes reactions in the characters, advances the plot, and amuses or intrigues the audience.
The interpolated sonnet has been a recurrent phenomenon from Dante to Anthony Burgess. A comparative study shows that even authors with no knowledge of each other's work employ the device in similar ways. Even when direct influence is out of the question, the most diverse writers achieve comparable effects by drawing on the same cultural patrimony. An analysis of a sonnet-scene often sheds light on the work as a whole, and certainly any device used by Dante, Shakespeare, Cervantes and Moliere deserves the attention of the critic.
Issue Date:1980
Description:216 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1980.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8108570
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-14
Date Deposited:1980

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