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Extra resources for A Tolkien Compass: Including J. R. R. Tolkien's Guide to the Names in the Lord of the Rings

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Yet an exclusive concern with the aesthetic ‘articulation’ of complaint-within-narrative can obscure the connections between texts like The Teares and the Tale and the underlying issues at stake in the Complaints volume. I argue that the 1591 volume is a deliberate grouping of poems related through their shared employment of the complaint mode. This takes different forms – from ‘free-standing’ complaint in Ruines of Rome and The Teares of the Muses, to the inset complaints of Virgils Gnat, Mother Hubberds Tale and Muiopotmos.

52 Sidney controls the ambivalent notion of mimesis through a didactic psychology of reading. The poet’s invention is pre-eminent because it constitutes the ideal mode of instruction. Literary texts (imitations) beget, or ‘bestow’, further patterns of virtue through the reader’s secondary imitation of the poet’s virtuous ‘fore-conceit’. 54 Yet as most readers discover, the Defence is the most attractive, intelligent and representative of the Elizabethan treatises on poetry. Nevertheless, it does not acknowledge either any uncertainties about literary mimesis, or any sense that it would be possible to conceive of a poetry other than one validated by its performance as a didactic vehicle.

In my view, the Complaints reveal the tensions between literary tradition and novelty which eventually produce an innovative conception of poetry. Spenser’s achievement in Complaints is to register his critical concern with poetry in such a way as to let the reader appreciate the conceptual change it was undergoing. 1 Spenser’s purpose is avowedly more 1 The main evidence for the date of Virgils Gnat’s composition is the Dedicatory sonnet’s heading. This states that the poem was ‘Long since dedicated / To the most noble and excellent Lord, / the Earle of Leicester, late / deceased’.

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