My book project, Tear Him For His Bad Verses: Carping, Caviling, and Literary Criticism, originates in the richly inventive language with which Tudor and Stuart writers discussed poetry’s shortcomings and failures. Ranging from apologetic prefaces to inept stage poets, I unfold a history of poetry represented negatively: as rude or greasy, bombastic or rank, lurking panther or ill-handled cheese. Such terms do not merely negate familiar rhetorical, continental, or allegorical approaches to poetic good. Badness can cut across such interpretive traditions, becoming in the hands of poets and playwrights a rich critical vocabulary for articulating the relationship between poetry’s formal properties and its actions in the world. Tudor literary theory, I propose, takes shape in the negative.
I also served on the steering committee of Princeton’s Digital Humanities Initiative.
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About Thrumpledum Thrum
My domainname is borrowed from Nicholas Udall’s play Ralph Roister Doister. Dobinet Doughtie, a servant to the play’s titular character, complains about having to sing his master’s absurd love songs:
With euery woman is he in some loues pang,
Then vp to our lute at midnight, twangledome twang,
Then twang with our sonets, and twang with our dumps,
And heyhough from our heart, as heauie as lead lumpess:
Then to our recorder with toodleloodle poope
As the howlet out of an yuie bushe should hoope.
Anon to our gitterne, thrumpledum, thrumpledum thrum,
Thrumpledum, thrumpledum, thrumpledum, thrumpledum thrum.
Of Songs and Balades also he is a maker,
And that can he as finely doe as Iacke Raker,
Yea and extempore will he dities compose,
Foolishe Marsias nere made the like I suppose…
It’s one of many moments in Renaissance drama in which a critique of bad poetry becomes carried away by the infectious rhythms of its own nonsense.
Image: Park’s Shakspere characters [graphic], Folger ART 231747,