In detailed commentaries on Shakespeare's 154 sonnets, Vendler reveals previously unperceived imaginative and stylistic features of the poems. 154 facsimiles. 35 illustrations.In detailed commentaries on Shakespeare's 154 sonnets, Vendler reveals previously unperceived imaginative and stylistic features of the poems. 154 facsimiles. 35 illustrations.Read Less
Helen Vendler, in addition to indirectly giving the language the verb "to vendle", is one of the best literary critics working today. An extremely acute close reader, alert to nuance, structure, context, content to stay with the work and not to use it as a springboard for grand generalizations, she manages to make what can be an overwhelming welter of seemingly similar poems available instead as a collection of individual gems, each of them revealing with a beauty densely great the movements of one man's exemplary mind. She makes Shakespeare close without reducing him to the familiar. His strangeness is the useful strangeness of all great work, not that of another culture, another time, another language.
Reading this inspired me to memorize many of the sonnets (I now have a shifting collection of nineteen, some of which sometimes squirt away from capture, others of which stay docilely in place.)
Her own reading, on the CD which accompanies the hard-cover version, is modest, accurate, not over-defined; one realizes that there are no definitive readings, only readings more or less honest.
Publishers Weekly, 1997-10-13 Cloaked in biographical mystery, Shakespeare's sonnets have tended to inspire historical detective work (most often into the identity of the Dark Lady, the Rival Poet) rather than literary criticism. When recent critics have attempted close readings of the 154 sonnets, the best have often thrown up their hands at the poems' rich ambiguities and the controversies these have sparked. Not Vendler. With admirable self-reliance and hardly a glance at the main stream of historical and gender-studies criticism, the famed Harvard professor reads the poems pragmatically, as "verbal contraptions," explaining how and why they work the way they do. The result is not just a few brilliant perceptions about, say, Shakespeare's use of clich?s or chiasmus (although those are here), but the best teachers' edition on the market. Vendler's preface, and the essays that accompany each sonnet (reproduced in 1609 facsimile as well as a modernized version), will make a nearly perfect introduction for college studentsæor for anyone else who wants to learn how to read the poems for their skill and originality. To this end, Vendler has recorded her own recitations of several important sonnets and included that CD with the book: as every teacher should soon be convinced, these poems must be memorized and spoken if they are truly to be read. CD not heard by PW. (Nov.)
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