The unifying conceptions and the implications of cyclic structure in The Shepheardes Calender
Driskill, Linda L. Phillips
Master of Arts
The purpose of this thesis is: (1) to investigate the nature of unity in pastoral poetry by analyzing the use of language in The Shepheardes Calender; (2) to discover and define the implications of cyclic structure; (3) to make an initial analysis of the cyclic pastoral form that will serve as a prolegomenon to a longer genre study. The goals and methods of this study are new. In analyzing the poem, the theory and linguistic description model of transformational grammar are employed to describe and explain the norms of the Calender which are found by the reader of the poem, as described in Rene Wellek and Austin Warren's (Theory of Literature) stratificational model. By incorporating the two models, it is possible to derive a theory of structure and unity in poetry, by specifying the kinds of restrictions and conditions imposed upon the competence grammar for ordinary discourse in order to produce the specific set of linguistic structures in poems that use the cyclic form and pastoral mode. The special requirements upon the grammar are described as unifying conceptions. The poem defines its world in language through its syntactic structures, through the choice of words and through semantic interpretations for words. The unifying conceptions state the kind of relationships that must obtain between the syntactic, lexical, semantic and phonological features of the poem. Unifying Conception I is a set of rules that makes specific requirements necessary for conceptual cohesion in the poem. Unifying Conception I has two parts: (1) the world-view subcomponent; and (2) the pastoral conception subcomponent. The world-view conception assigns semantic markers, lexical readings or selection restrictions to allow the encoding of a world view in the poem. Spenser recreates the progression of consciousness from unexplained evil, in its most external form, to a consciousness of sin and guilt that implies a demand for order and justice. At the same time, rudimentary systems of order are developed to a full-scale hierarchy of cosmic harmony and order in which human endeavor is sanctioned and authorized by God and presented as man's duty. The rules of this conception are stated in the form of semantic generalizations for categories of terms to be used in the poem. The second part of Unifying Conception I deals with the pastoral mode. This conception restricts word choice and makes possible the substitution of pastoral terms for other terms which have been assigned equivalent semantic markers. The combination of lexical choice and assigned evaluation markers in lexical readings make possible complex and subtle characterization as well as the projection of many moral and temporal perspectives. The characters in the Calender are self-defining in their use of language. The requirements of the unifying conceptions and theoretical linguistic concepts help to describe the existence of different moral perspectives for particular characters. The Phrase-markers of the linguistic description model are the basis of a system of discourse description, by which equivalence classes of discourse units in the poem are defined. These descriptions are used to demonstrate the cyclic structure of the poem. In genera!, the cyclic structure provides for the recurrence of discourse patterns which have multiple directional relationships with other eclogues. Through the divergent lines of directional relationship the structure creates cyclic motion that expands, develops and qualifies the meaning of all the eclogues as the reader follows the cyclic pattern of the poem. Unifying conceptions of cyclic structure and phonological patterns of meter and rhyme relate to the unifying conceptions of semantic and lexical features to produce the strata of Wellek and Warren's stratificational model. A tightly cohesive system of dominance and organization is defined as the criterion for evaluating poetic unity. Careful analyses of individual eclogues are used to demonstrate the theoretical assumptions concerning unity and structure in The Shepheardes Calender.