John Sheffield’s Essay upon Poetry: The Use of Literature for Educational Purposes in the Long Eighteenth Century

A3 Bokavsnitt, kapitel i forskningsböcker

Interna författare/redaktörer

Publikationens författare: Adam Borch
Redaktörer: Tommi Alho, Jason Finch, Roger D. Sell
Förlagsort: Amsterdam, Philadelphia
Publiceringsår: 2019
Förläggare: John benjamins
Moderpublikationens namn: Renaissance Man. Essays on Literature and Culture for Anthony W. Johnson
Seriens namn: FILLM Studies in Languages and Literatures
Nummer i serien: 11
Artikelns första sida, sidnummer: 103
Artikelns sista sida, sidnummer: 128
ISBN: 9789027204257
eISBN: 9789027262004


In this article, I look to examine how
literature was used for educational purposes during the long eighteenth
century. In doing so, my study aligns itself with one strand in the work of
Anthony W. Johnson, namely his long-standing interest in the plays and speeches
produced by the students at King’s School, Canterbury in the second half of the
seventeenth century and gathered in the “Orationes” manuscript. However, by
focusing on John Sheffield’s Essay upon
(first printed in 1682) – a didactic poem composed in the spirit of
Horace’s Ars Poetica – the aim is to cast
light on the connection between learning and literature in the public realm
rather than the grammar school classroom. In examining how Sheffield goes about
teaching the reading public through the medium of poetry, I argue for the
importance of first considering how he envisioned the teaching situation: how did
he address his audiences and what precisely was it he wanted them to learn? Although,
the Essay upon Poetry lacks the specific addressee so often found in the
genre, I find that its addressivity is still complicated since Sheffield implicitly
distinguishes between two types of audience, those who know the rules of poetry
and those who do not. Sheffield did not aim to teach his most ignorant readers
a set of specific poetic techniques or compositional methods, however. Rather,
he appears to have wanted to provide the public with an entertaining poem that,
primarily, looked to inform his less knowledgeable readers about how to improve their skills and where to
look for real advice and inspiration. Sheffield thus forwarded a view of
literary history that revered classical literature. Finally, I consider how Sheffield dealt with
one particularly acute problem facing the didactic poet: how not to offend
readers by assuming a position of superiority. There are clear signs in the Essay upon Poetry that Sheffield adopted
quite traditional methods extended from a simple Lucretian pedagogy, but there
are also signs that would suggest he looked to create a feeling of solidarity
and camaraderie with other poets.


literature, Poetry, poetry in education, public sphere


Senast uppdaterad 2020-20-09 vid 06:44