The Secret Architecture of Shakespeare's Sonnets

Steven Monte

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Explores the intricate hidden organisation of Shakespeare’s Sonnets
  • Discusses Shakespeare as a writer with career aspirations as a poet
  • Analyses individual poems, especially anthology pieces and "minor" sonnets, from new perspectives
  • Explores Shakespeare’s relations with his poetic contemporaries

This book argues the idea that Shakespeare was deeply engaged with other poets and with pursuing a career as a poet, and that the organisational schemes of the Sonnets have been hiding in plain sight for over four centuries. The fundamental reason why his schemes have gone unnoticed is historical: within decades of his death, conventions of sonnet sequences became unfamiliar, and they have largely remained so since. Weaving together ideas of the Sonnets as a free-standing sequence and as a sonnet sequence among other poets’ complex sequences, we discover new insights into Shakespeare’s career as a poet.

AcknowledgementsNote on titles, terminology, and notationIntroduction: Seeing Things ‘Perspectively’

1: Stories in and about Shakespeare’s Sonnets

2: The Basic Scheme

3: Poetic Rivalry in Late-Elizabethan England

4: A Triptych for the Third Earl

5: Competing Schemes

6: The Fair-Youth Sonnets, Part 1

7: The Fair-Youth Sonnets, Part 2

8: The Mistress Sonnets

9: Complaints of the Heart

Conclusion: Seeing Things RetrospectivelyAppendicesNotesBibliography

Monte’s The Secret Architecture of Shakespeare’s Sonnets traces the historical milieu of Shakespeare’s own aesthetic principle and thereby demonstrates the inseparability of form and context. This beautiful book attests to the importance of risking audacity in argument and interpretive practice even as it models the affordances of scholarly patience and care.
Melissa E. Sanchez, University of Pennsylvania
Steven Monte is Full Professor of English at the College of Staten Island (CUNY). He has also taught at the University of Chicago and at Yale University, from which he received his doctorate in Comparative Literature. His scholarship focuses on Renaissance and post-Romantic poetry in English and French. His book publications include Victor Hugo: Selected Poetry (Carcanet, 2001; Routledge, 2002) and Invisible Fences: Prose Poetry as a Genre in French and American Literature (Nebraska, 2000). His articles are on subjects ranging from the Renaissance sonnet sequence to Emily Dickinson and difficulty in modern poetry. He is currently working on a verse translation of Joachim Du Bellay’s Les Regrets.

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