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The Challenges of Orpheus

, 304 pages
December 2007



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The Challenges of Orpheus

Lyric Poetry and Early Modern England

2008 Outstanding Academic Title, Choice Magazine

As a literary mode "lyric" is difficult to define precisely. While the term has conventionally been applied to brief, songlike poems expressing the speaker's interior thoughts critics have questioned many of the assumptions underlying this definition, calling into doubt the very possibility of self-expression in language.

Whereas much recent scholarship on lyric has centered on the Romantic era, Heather Dubrow turns instead to the poetry of early modern England. The Challenges of Orpheus confronts widespread assumptions about lyric, exploring such topics as its relationship to its audiences, the impact of material conditions of production and other cultural pressures, lyric's negotiations of gender, and the interactions and tensions between lyric and narrative.

Offering fresh perspectives on major texts of the period—from Wyatt's "My lute awake" to Milton's Nativity Ode—as well as poems by lesser-known figures, Dubrow extends her critical conclusions to poetry in other historical periods and to the relationship between creative writers and critics, recommending new directions for the study of lyric and of genre.

Heather Dubrow is the John D. Boyd, S.J., Chair in the Poetic Imagination at Fordham University.

"Thorough, penetrating, and on the cutting edge of contemporary scholarship. Essential."

"A useful and detailed study. Dubrow is especially good at analysing the relationship between gender and genre."

"Her refinement of generic oppositions... leads to some striking juxtapositions as well as—to my thinking at least—an exceptionally interesting discussion of the status and function of song in Shakespearean drama."

"Dubrow accomplishes much in this pioneering study."

"Formidable exegetical skills... Dubrow's terse accounts bring great insight and illumination to the problem of defining and describing lyric poetry."

"Includes some of her most important thinking to date about issues that are central to the study of lyric poetry in any period."

"A study that is itself both challenging and gentle—in all the very best senses of that word."

"Her study exemplifies an ideal of informed and judicious close reading that one can only hope will prove as infectious as its author wishes it to be."

"Represents both a wide-ranging exploration of lyric poetry in the early modern period and a plea for scholars to emphasize multivalent ideas and inclusive taxonomies over hierarchical and sharply argumentative approaches."

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