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The Library of Renaissance Symbolism
The Symbolic Literature of the Renaissance

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Favorite books of 2007

I particularly enjoyed the following books this last year and all three seem to me to demonstrate true scholarship

1. Pattern Poetry Guide to an Unknown Literature by Dick Higgins - State University of New York Press, 1987

What was to me a quite minor genre of the symbolic literature, (see Figure Poems in this Web site) turns out to be a very extensive one which spans many countries and many centuries. Higgins documents 2,000 pattern poems as he calls them and in the course of his research says he wrote some 12,000 letters. (If only email had existed then) His book illustrates many of them and gives many useful references. I enjoyed it.

2. William Shakspeare's Small Latine and Lesse Greeke by T. W. Baldwin - University of Illinois Press 1944

This massive 2 volume work of more than 1,600 pages sets out to show how Shakespeare's grammar school education is reflected in multiple instances within his plays. The reverse implication of this is, of course, that the plays reveal that Shakespeare must indeed have had a grammar school education. The first volume is taken up by a description of the educational curriculum in the grammar schools in England in Shakespeare's time and indeed in the public schools (actually private schools) such as Winchester and Eton, and the curriculum for the princes and nobility including the text books which must have been used. The second volume references this education to Shakespeare's plays and shows how every element of Rhetoric (the art of composition which was taught in the schools) is used somewhere or other in the plays. Baldwin is able to show which text book, Shakespeare must have used and even in some cases which edition. It is obvious from this exposition that Shakespeare was as just as familiar with the literature of symbolism, which is the subject of this site, with the fables, adages, sentences and the rest, as everyone else of his time.

3. History and the Homeric Iliad by Denys Page - University of California Press 1966

A wonderful example of literary detective work particularly in the latter chapters. A combination of philological, historical and archeological scholarship and close reading of the text reveals fascinating interpretations of the work, its origins and history and the origins of some of the heroes in the story.