Helen Vendler's The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets
is an incredible work of analysis, criticism--and obsession. In giving these complex poems a close reading, Vendler attempts to enter the mind and esthetics of her subject, resulting in an amazing and comprehensive commentary on the sonnets. But this is not a book for Shakespeare neophytes. Vendler assumes a degree of familiarity with Shakespeare's sonnets, and she writes in the language of literary criticism: "...the couplet--placed not as resolution but as coda--can then stand in any number of relations ... to the preceding argument."). However, for those readers who have a basic knowledge of Renaissance poetics, and Shakespeare's sonnets in particular, The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets
is a gold mine of fascinating interpretation. What's more, though Vendler draws on the work of many commentators who went before her, in the end it is Shakespeare's own meaning, and not the interpretation of modern critics, that she reads for. A nice bonus is the CD inside the back cover of the book, which contains the author's reading of 65 sonnets.
From Library Journal
A respected literary critic and Harvard academic, Vendler has created an exhaustive and wonderful work on Shakespeare's sonnets. Most of the many studies of the sonnets focus on the dozen or so most famous ones. Works that do study the complete group usually offer detailed, scholarly annotations, such as G. Blakemore Evans's highly recommended The Sonnets (Cambridge Univ., 1996). Vendler examines the lyrics as works of poetry, presenting all 154 sonnets, first in the 1609 Quarto version and then in Vendler's modernized text. Close readings relate the meaning of the language and the structure of individual sonnets and link them to other sonnets by theme or unit. The work is accompanied by a CD of Vendler reading 65 of the poems. A lengthy, useful introduction; a bibliography; an index of first lines; and two appendixes (of keywords and defective key words) complete the work. This study will become a standard work and is essential for all academic libraries.?Neal Wyatt, formerly with Mary Washington Coll. Lib., Richmond, Va.
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