SPEAKER 1: This is a production of Cornell University.
SPEAKER 2: Intervention is to ask you to turn your cell phones off, not just put them to sleep, but turn them off. Because Molly is regrettably ill today, I've been asked to introduce Jenny Mann at this talk. And it's a special pleasure to do so. Though, Jenny, of course, hardly needs an introduction in this room, especially since you came to know her last year, many of you, when she was at the Society for the Humanities as a Mellon postdoctoral fellow. Where by all accounts, she played an invaluable role in the project of that year, which was to, in my own terms, to historicize and problemetize the global discourse of the postmodern.
As one means, as Jenny puts it, of addressing 21st century challenges to the humanities, I've heard frequently that in addition to pursuing her own project there, she took extraordinary interest in the work of others at the society and was instrumental in making it a successful year. And since then during that year and since then, she has continued research that originally culminated in her dissertation. And I should give you that background.
Jenny received her undergraduate degree at Yale University in 1999 and then did a master's degree and a PhD at Northwestern. And the dissertation title at Northwestern, which she completed in 2006, is Rhetorical Habits of Mind in Early Modern England. At the society, she continue that research into the rhetorical habits of mind, formal and political dimensions of the influence of such habits of mind, wanting to show the broad impact of rhetorical figures on literary texts, cultural productions, and the political imagination.
And she's now moving that dissertation toward a book, which will be called Outlaw Rhetoric: Fashioning Vulgar Eloquence in Early Modern England. During the year at society, she did further research into the late 17th century. The primary focus of the book is on the earlier Renaissance literature. But she did research into the late 17th century when natural philosophers repudiated rhetorical eloquence in favor of what they called plain, or mathematical, language, fostering the distinct disciplines, such as history, science, law, philosophy, and politics.
And in relation to that, she also pursued elements of resistance in the latter part of the 17th century to such tendencies to move those disciplines away from rhetoric. And she was especially interested in literary works about monsters and marvels, hermaphrodites, Amazons, Africans that dismiss ocular examination in favor of what she called other modes of imaginative contact with foreign bodies.
It's a great pleasure to introduce Jenny today. Her title today is Bottom's English Rhetoric: Mingling Heroes and Hobglobins in Midsummer Night's Dream. Brace yourself for eloquence.
JENNY MANN: Thank you. Thank you very much. And I'm glad to have the chance to introduce my work to members of the English department and the Cornell community, who I haven't had a chance to talk to since I've been here.
I thought I'd begin just by describing the big problem I'm working with in my field, which is Renaissance, or early modern English literature, before digging into the talk in particular. And that is that a defining feature of what we call Renaissance culture is a concern with the legacy of antiquity. And this concern in practical terms involved the rediscovery of and study of ancient Greek and Roman texts and the simulation of the values of those texts into 16th and 17th century culture. And at the same time, at least in the literary works, there was a burgeoning interest in Englishness as a shared identity.
And writers were beginning to imagine a national community united by a common land, a common language, and a providential history. And one means of negotiating these two cultural priorities, this ancient past and a national future, was the translation of the classical arts of discourse, such as the art of rhetoric, into the English vernacular. And in the 16th century, a number of humanists and school masters did just that, producing the first English rhetorics. And this is really my archive.
And what makes these vernacular handbooks interesting to me-- and they haven't been that interesting to anyone else-- is that they dramatize the negotiations between a linguistic standard based on classical literature, a standard that is ahistorical and thus, permanently valid and the promotion of a forward looking, historically conscious national language. And herein lies the problem.
The English rhetorics are attempting to produce an artistic, or eloquent, vernacular by drawing upon the classical tradition that already in advance disdains that vernacular as barbaric, effeminate, and disorderly. And my argument is that this predicament becomes what I call the plot of vernacular rhetoric. And my book project is trying to show how figures of speech carry this plot into English writing.
So today, I'm going to take just about 10 minutes to give a kind of historical background on the place of rhetoric in the early modern world, and just briefly allude to the major claims of my project before I dive in to my particular argument about how one particular English figure of speech organizes the materials of a Midsummer Night's Dream. And my hope is just to give you a sense of how much exciting work an understanding of these vulgar figures can allow us to do.
So this is actually I see a pretty early modern crowd. So maybe some of this background is not necessary. But I'm going to go through it anyway. So for those of you who might be outside of the field, let me begin by giving you a sense of rhetoric's place in the cultural world of early modern England. So the humanist reforms of English education produced a fairly uniform national school system in the 16th century. Whereby, the sons of prosperous yeoman, gentry, professional men, and also the lower ranks of the nobility received extensive training in the Latin art of rhetoric.
Tutor grammar schools instilled their charges with a range of rhetorical skills aimed at both reading and composition. And the ability to produce figurative expressions was particularly valued. Schoolboys were drilled by their masters over and over again, until they could easily recognize and reproduce the linguistic features of [INAUDIBLE], or style, including most especially the tropes and figures of speech. And schoolmasters encouraged students to note each instance of rhetorical ornament in their reading. And if you look at any surviving books from this period, you can see that this practice was really taken to heart and that texts were regularly worked over by their readers to identify particular figures of speech.
So these pedagogical techniques, techniques that were derived from this vast and complex art of rhetoric, provided the means through which school masters trained English boys to comprehend the texts of ancient culture. And this training also prepared future secretaries and clerics to produce letters and sermons of their own. So throughout the educational system, rhetoric was the manner through which English students were trained to read and write. But they were being trained to do this in Latin, entirely in Latin.
So as indicated by its prominence on the school syllabus, rhetoric was the preeminent art of discourse in the Renaissance. And there was a flood of printed material produced on this subject throughout the early modern period and throughout Europe. And in keeping with humanist practice, the majority of these rhetorical textbooks were published in Latin. However, between 1530 and 1680, almost 40 such guides were produced in the English vernacular. And these works really range in seriousness and content from translations of Aristotle and Cicero to letter writing manuals, to collections of orations, to dictionaries of tropes and figures of speech.
But what they all do is work to make some part of the tools of rhetoric available in the English tongue. And although they were necessarily excluded from school room practice, which was a total Latin environment, these vernacular handbooks help us to understand how English writers were employing their classical training to reacquire a technically superior version of their mother tongue. And it's this archive of English rhetoric that defines the scope of my project.
And so I begin with the publication of the first vernacular handbook in 1530, which is just as rhetoric was beginning to dominate grammar school education in England. And I conclude in the late 17th century, which is the work [INAUDIBLE] was referring to, at a moment when natural political philosophers were agitating for rhetoric's removal from the curriculum.
So the modest scope of the handbooks, as well as there they're fairly limited circulation, belies the somewhat grandiose claims they make on their own behalf. But nevertheless, the English manuals position their translations as a form of national invention. One of the earliest guides describes this process as the attempt to make classical figures speak English. And the vernacular handbooks imagine this process of translation and transportation as a transportation of the figures of rhetoric from the Roman world to the English commonwealth.
And an interest in the improvement of the English land animates descriptions of vernacular rhetorical forms. And so the rhetorics extensively utilize agricultural metaphors. They imagine England as a garden or a field where eloquence can be sown and harvested by native speakers. And within this new vernacular rhetorical context, the vulgar need not necessarily signify stylistic deficiency, but rather a shared English identity based on a common tongue and a common land.
However, this is the sort of idealistic version of rhetoric you get in these prefaces. But however, although the guides celebrate the transplantation of rhetoric to England as a kind of national self-fashioning, they also worry that their vernacular productions fail to meet the standards of linguistic decorum, allowing women and social underlings to trespass onto the rightful property of elite Latin art. And this agonistic drama of transladio, a drama in which efforts to achieve classical eloquence only reconfirm English barbarity, manifests in quite interesting ways in the disposition of the vulgar tropes and figures of speech.
And what the handbooks do is designate a series of figures within the rhetorical catalog as both culturally and syntactically disorderly. Thus, attempting to displace the charge of linguistic trespass onto a small subset of rhetorical schemes. And most of these newly designated disorderly figures are those that effect changes in word order. So they are figures of speech that work in an inflected language, such as Latin, but that challenge grammatical sense when used in English.
So these figures are deplored as linguistic outlaws and sent to range at the outskirts of the English rhetorical garden. However, despite these efforts, the problem of disorder continues to haunt the entire project of vernacular rhetoric, which itself risks condemnation as a source of unrest within the polity. Because what you're essentially doing is teaching peasants the tools of power, the tools of rhetoric. And my research reveals this tension between a common ideal vision of the nation and a fear of social disorder that comes with that common vision. This tension is the narrative force of the English catalog of tropes and figures of speech.
And when deployed outside of the handbooks, I think these figures carry the disorderly effects of their own translation. And this drama of transladio becomes a part of their meaning in English writing. So this argument, just to give you a sense of where I fit in in other work in early modern studies, this argument diverges at the outset from many other analyses of Renaissance rhetoric and its insistence on the distinct features of vulgar rhetorical forms. And in fact, this is my primary polemic. And that is that you have to attend to the formation of English rhetoric in the 16th and 17th centuries in order to understand rhetoric's myriad effects in early modern England.
And this intervention is relevant, because although rhetoric used to be defined in a very limited fashion as a pedagogical technique, it was a way of teaching boys to read and write eloquently, it's now regarded by the field not just as a method of schooling, but as a defining mode of intellectual inquiry, knowledge production, and social negotiation. And the insights of this newer cultural history of rhetoric have been used to outline a kind of alternate Elizabethan world picture with the fraught social cosmologies of the early modern world made visible not through a kind of monolithic chain of being, but rather through the various discursive techniques of the rhetorical tradition.
So for example, the social poetics of the Tudor court are understood as a kind of rhetorical practice. That's a commonplace, I would say, in the criticism. However, despite a professed interest in the cultural specificity of the rhetorical arts, contemporary scholarship still tends to treat rhetoric as a pan-European phenomenon, with English texts regarded as kind of minor offshoots of what was primarily a neo-Latin tradition. And this neglect of the distinctive features of English rhetoric largely mimics the structure of the humanist school, which disdained the use of the vernacular and rendered eloquence synonymous with Latin expression.
However, so English rhetoric really occupies a fringe position relative to humanist pedagogy. But these vernacular handbooks transcribe a compositional habit that's subtending most all English writing in this period. And that is turning one's Latin training into English. And I think that the particular dimensions of this centrally important linguistic practice can be recovered by referring to these handbooks of English rhetoric.
And so that's what I am trying to do in working on the book. And the rest of this presentation documents my attempt to turn this research into a reading practice that attends to the peculiar history that's lodged within English figures of speech. So that's my long intro.
So I'm going to begin by reading one of the most familiar passages from A Midsummer Night's Dream, which is a speech in which Duke Theseus disparages the site of his own invention, as well as that of the play in which he stars as antique fables and fairy toys. And he confides to his fiance, Hippolyta, "I never may believe these antique fables nor these fairy toys. Lovers and madmen have such seething brains , such shaping fantasies that apprehend more than cool reason ever comprehends." And Theseus admonishes that such fables are more strange than true. And he goes on to indict works of the imagination based on their distance from reality.
So although Theseus disdains tricks of strong imagination, this passage has nevertheless given literary critics the lexicon through which we habitually apprehend Shakespeare's dream. And much of the scholarship on the play could be described as a quest to identify the precise nature of the place shaping fantasies, a phrase which has given a variety of critical methodologies a useful framework through which to enter into the play's very strange composition to describe both its structure and its relation to the Elizabethan world from which it emerged. And a kind of founding new historicist essay about Midsummer Night's Dream was called Shaping Fantasies. So that's what I'm referring to.
And so I too am returning to this important critical scene asking again, what are these shaping fantasies to which Theseus refers? Do they have a purely ideological content? Or might they engender certain formal modes of expression? In other words, what shapes do these fantasies take in the play? So after my introduction, it's not a big mystery what my answer is. I want to identify the art of rhetoric as the shaping fantasy of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Moreover, I want to say that it's the dream of English rhetoric that provides the shaping fantasy of the play. And I've already gestured at the contours of this fantasy of vulgar eloquence in 16th century rhetorical guides, one in which classical figures of speech find a local habitation in an English garden. And A Midsummer Night's Dream, like these handbooks, conjures a space in which ancient and native figures can commingle. And the play explicitly meditates on processes of representation and figuration frequently calling attention to its own artifice. And it does so with language drawn from the vernacular rhetorical lexicon.
So characters are repeatedly said to be transfigured and translated by the events of the plot. And not only do the plot and the language of the play unfold according to the terminology of English rhetoric, but the composition of A Midsummer Night's Dream itself dramatizes that discourse is characteristic activity. The play transports and transforms classical [INAUDIBLE], helping Latin and Greek figures become English.
The vernacular tradition imagines this process of translation in spatial terms with rhetoric displaced in both space and time from Athens to Rome to London. And A Dream takes this process of cultural translation and turns it into a theatrical event, one in which long dead Athenian heroes cohabit with English hobglobins and rude mechanicals. So this process of translation and exchange I argue is directly shaped by the figure Hypallage, which is renamed the changeling in George Putnam's Art of English Posy.
And this is one of the unruly figures of disorder to which I alluded earlier, a figure that produces change in word order. So the vernacular changeling organizes an exchange of classical and native material that's bodied forth in the composition of Shakespeare's play. In other words, the exchanges of the changeling produce not just the language, but actually the plot of A Midsummer Night's Dream. So English rhetorical handbooks actually don't usually give much attention to Hypallage. It's a figure of limited value in a language whose grammatical sense depends on word order.
However, despite its marginal status, vis-a-vis vernacular practice, most English rhetoric still include Hypallage in their catalogs, defining the grammatical exchanges of the figure in terms of illicit transport. So to explain it very simply, the figure mixes the sequence in which words correspond to one another in a sentence resulting in an exchange of words that often produces nonsense, or absurdity, which is the word that the guides use over and over again.
So the English guides imagine this exchange of syntactical parts as a form of travel, one which changes, for example. And this is quoted from figure one in your handout. So this is Angel Day's example of a sentence that's been worked over by Hypallage. Dark [INAUDIBLE] wandering by the solitary night for wandering solitarily by the dark some night. So according to these vernacular rhetorics, this syntactical wandering produces at best a kind of absurdity, perverting-- and this is a word they also like to use-- perverting what they call the natural order of words in a sentence.
However, in a letter or an oration might be an incongruous, or infelicitous, misalignment of words is potentially a useful expressive device for poets. And it's this poetic usefulness that perhaps justifies George Putnam's extensive discussion of the figure in his Art of English Posy. And this is the longer passage, figure two on your handout. So Putnam writes, "The Greeks call this figure Hypallage, the Latin submutatio. We in our vulgar may call him the under change. But I had rather have him called the changeling. Nothing at all swerving from his original and much more aptly to the purpose and pleasanter to bear in memory, especially for your ladies and pretty mistresses in court, for whose learning I write. Because it is a term often in their mouths and alluding to the opinion of nurses who are want to say that the fairies used to steal the fairest children out of their cradles and put other ill-favored in their places, which they called changelings, or elves. So if [INAUDIBLE] whether a poet or maker play with his words using a wrong construction for a right and an absurd for a sensible fine manner of exchange."
So go forth now and use the changeling. I'm sure you've been well instructed how to apply this figure in your own writing. So Putnam's translation duplicates the absurdity of the poet who exchanges a wrong construction for a right, identifying the workings of a classical figure with the trickery of indigenous English sprites, and even more unexpectedly with the superstitions of women and servants. So Putnam first offers what appears to be a direct translation of the Latin and Greek, the underchange, before quickly supplanting this name with what he considers a more apt and pleasant term, the changeling.
The passage articulates the structure of the figure as ancient and foreign, while simultaneously familiarly English. It derives from the Greeks and Latins. And yet it can also be found in the opinion of nurses. This manner of exchange affected by the figure is doubled in Putnam's exchange of two different translations of a classical original into an English derivative, as well as his transfer of the term from ancient texts into the mouths and memory of women.
So despite his defensive disclaimer that his translation is nothing at all swerving from the original, displacements abound in this text. The Greek figure moves from text into mouths and not just any mouths, but the mouths of women. And Putnam tries to control or make sense of this potentially bewildering series of linguistic exchanges by narrating a story that both translates the work of the figure itself and serves as a mnemonic device for his students. As such, Putnam transmutes a Greek figure into an English plot.
So while the presence of vulgar elves in a dictionary of classical rhetorical forms might seem somewhat dissonant, if you've ever thought about such things, Putnam is in fact just one among many Elizabethan writers to impart fairy tales into high cultural productions in this period. So at the same moment, the creatures of popular superstition and folklore are first becoming lettered. So they're appearing in English translations of Virgil's Aeneid and Ovid's Metamorphoses, for example. And these translations substitute fairies and elves for the nymphs and fawns that are in the Latin originals.
Thus rendering the hobglobins of local superstition equivalent to the pantheon of classical sprites. And so the so-called terrestrial devils, as they were described, the terrestrial devils of oral tradition began to populate serious English poetry joining these popular traditions with classical knowledge. And by the late 16th century, fairies were very much in fashion, featured most famously in Spencer's Fairy Queen, but also appearing in pageants, royal progresses, plays, masks, poems, and so forth.
However, despite their frequent appearance in aristocratic entertainments throughout the late 16th and early 17th centuries, at the time of publication of Putnam's Art, fairies were still identifiable not as part of a classical or even a kind of vernacular literary inheritance, or as figures of literary invention, but rather as indigenous creatures of local popular tradition. Fairies were visibly rooted. As one contemporary put it, rooted in the opinion of the vulgar. And moreover, fairy tales were associated with childhood in particular and with an unlettered, discursive community peopled by women and servants.
And in fact, nearly every allusion to fairy belief in the period, most especially tales of Robin Goodfellow, emphasizes the presence of a loquacious female narrator who serves as the repository of fairy lore. And this female storyteller inhabits Putnam's text as well, which cites the opinion of nurses in describing the work of the changeling. Such an instructor, a female, and a servant as well ostensibly should have no place in teaching the classical arts of discourse. However, as indicated by the commingling of Putnam's storytelling nurse and her courtly charges, female domestic servants provided points of contact between middling and upper class households and a lower status vernacular culture that might otherwise seem to be excluded from such a social sphere.
So as a result of this commingling of nurses and courtly ladies, the dangerous effects of vulgar nurses were an object of particular concern within humanist educational theory. Upon entry into the school house, boys were expected to forget their nurse's fairy tales and replace them with the material of classical literature. And in his aim and method of education, Erasmus Rotterdam posits the rejection of fairy lore as a defining feature of humanist instruction writing that, "A boy may learn a pretty story from the ancient poets or a memorable tale from history just as readily as the stupid and vulgar ballad or the old wives fairy rubbish, such as most children are steeped in nowadays by nurses and serving women."
Erasmus's polemic against old wives tales indicates how humanism was securing its status by defining itself in opposition to a vulgar culture identified as shamefully domestic and effeminized. And humanist purveyors of the classical arts treat fairies as a signifier of the vulgar, identifiable with a feminized underclass of English speakers. So the question for me then becomes, why would fairy lore reemerge in Putnam's attempt to make rhetoric an English art that's comparable to that of the ancient world? I mean, this would seem to be directly contradictory to his aims.
Part of the answer to this question can be found in the complexities surrounding the formation of a common linguistic culture in these rhetorical guides. Common as a project that signifies not just a class of people, but also a particular place. Fairies are terrestrial devils rooted not just in vulgar opinion, but also in an idea of the British land. And even as fairy lore was circulating into the highest reaches of courtly culture, these elves and hobglobins remained identifiable as spirits of the English household and the outlying forest, so homespun, domestic creatures born of local materials.
So the changeling, as Putnam writes, aptly translates Hypallage by affixing it to the contours of the English countryside. To use the Latin term, the English changeling is aptus or fitting, replacing a Greek term that is ineptus, or out of place. However, asserting the decorum of vernacular rhetoric through reference to local fairies remained a risky enterprise. Because the links between fairies and the English countryside weren't always, or even usually, positive identifications. For starters, fairies could easily be read as manifestations of the superstitious Celtic borderlands, places that had yet to be fully integrated into a coherent English nation.
Furthermore, tales of changelings in particular, that is of fairies who steal human babies and leave malformed elves in their place, are among the most disturbing reports of fairy behavior. And in fact, the phrase going to see the fairies functioned as a euphemistic expression for illicit sexual encounters at this time. So a great deal of early modern fairy lore actually has a very disturbing sexual content as well. And if one considers the widespread eroticization of fairy activity in the period, the changeling registers as an especially fitting translation for Hypallage, which is a figure whose interchanges are said to pervert sense.
So fairy lore embodies the very same contradiction that's plaguing English rhetoric at this moment. It signifies a nation united by a common land and a distinct culture. And yet it also evokes specters of social disorder, including thieves, and Irish, and loquacious women. And so in identifying Hypallage with a fairy tale, Putnam is foregrounding the greatest vulnerability of the English rhetorical project. And that is the way in which it unravels the gendered social work of the studia humanitatis. So by exchanging a vulgar fairy tale for a Greek figure of speech, Putnam exactly reverses the cultural trajectory of his humanist training, which was supposed to eradicate such fairy rubbish.
In replacing the art of Cicero with a nursery tale, we might say that like the figure Hypallage, Putnam exchanges a wrong construction for a right. However, in the course of perverting the natural order of classical material, this disorderly text also produces the very stuff of English imaginative literature. And Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream dramatizes the disorderly content of this very figure of speech, allowing fairy tales and English artisans to enter into the court of Theseus.
So I think it's fair to say that even after 400 years of reading and performance, the mixtures of A Midsummer Night's Dream are still quite startling. We begin quite sedately with a hero of ancient myth paying court to an Amazon queen. But before the middle of the second act, a gaggle of English artisans, a country puck, and the king and queen of fairy have joined their voices to the play's chorus. So not only does A Midsummer Night's Dream combine popular and learned textual material ignoring the cultural distinctions Erasmus was so desperate to secure. But the play also depicts characters who disregard orders of social distinction, including a daughter who defies the will of her father and a wife who refuses to accede to her husband's wishes.
And this collision of literary and social disorder achieves its most traumatic expression when Titania raises Bottom, the weaver, into her bower. And at this point, audiences see the fairy queen taking an English lover who is not her husband, not of her rank, and at this moment, not even human. And the image on my poster conveys maybe some of the excitement of that moment for audiences.
So all of these varieties of social and linguistic disorder as they are conjured in the play are in fact, directly shaped by the disorderly forms of vernacular rhetoric. So as I've mentioned, the play explicitly grapples with questions of representation. And this is my way of saying to me, when I read this play, it's like over and over and over again saying, I'm about figuration, right? Please don't fail to notice that I'm about figuration. So that's what I'm getting at here. So it grapples quite explicitly with questions of representation. It frequently deploys rhetorical terminology, such as turn, translate, figure, and disfigure, even when describing events that otherwise seem to have very little connection to verbal composition.
And the play underscores Bottom's experiences in particular as linguistic translations, which is perhaps why scholars often refer to The Weaver as a figure for an obviously stitched together play. And so building on this identification of Bottom's words and experience with the play's amalgamated construction, I posit the very rhetorical scheme he utters upon exiting the forest as the key to understanding these disparate levels of transformation.
So when Bottom wakes in the forest and he has his own head back, he declares that "The eye of man hath not heard. The ear of man hath not seen. Man's hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report what my dream was." In attempting to explain why his experience defies representation, Bottom perverts the correspondence between his words, misaligning sense organs with their proper sensations. In other words, Bottom speaks the changeling. And the figure assumes control of his language at the very moment he's attempting to narrate the events of the night in the forest, which he describes as Bottom's dream.
So it's the figure, in other words, that tries to narrate the play. So the disfiguring effects of the changeling manifest again and again throughout the play apart from in Bottom's language from an exchange of seasons resulting from Titania and Oberon's descent over a changeling boy to the varieties of gender and social disorder that are encompassed by the plot. For example, as one of the Athenian ladies, Helena, is pursuing her unwilling lover into the forest, she explains, "The story shall be changed. Apollo flies. And Daphne holds the chase. The dove pursues the griffin. The mild hind makes speed to catch the tiger."
As we can see from Helena's changed story, the social disorder in the Athenian court mimics the tumult in the forest. And we're invited to consider the twists and turns of the love plot involving these four Athenians as a process of figuration from the very first scene of the play when Theseus informs Hermia that she has to accede to the will of her father regarding her marriage. And he's chosen someone she doesn't like. And Theseus explains that, "To you your father should be as a god, one that composed your beauties, yay, and one to whom you are but as a form in wax by him imprinted and within his power to leave the figure or disfigure it."
The lovers are indeed disfigured, as Theseus threatens in this first scene. However, they're transformed according to the perverse exchanges of the changeling rather than Egeus's paternal authority. And throughout the play-- and this has been observed many times-- the four Athenians are kind of shifted about and mismatched, like parts of a sentence. And they're very difficult to distinguish from one another, or at least the men are. So the affections of first Demetrius and then Lysander attach to inappropriate objects. In grammatical terms, they are interchanged, or as Putnam puts it, underchanged. And Hippolyta later describes the minds of the young lovers as transfigured by their night in the forest, actually noting the manner in which they have been moved about by the changeling.
So as these examples begin to indicate, transfigurations and underchanges abound in Dream that they work through the presentation of every character and element of the plot, as well as the play's language. But the figure of the changeling attaches itself most fully to the character of Bottom, as I've indicated. And the play repeatedly identifies Bottom as an object of linguistic translation. And his body becomes literally disfigured when Puck gives him the head of an ass. At which point, both Peter Quince and Puck himself describe Bottom as translated.
After laying eyes on the transformed weaver, Tom Snout exclaims, "Oh Bottom, thou art changed." So as in the translation of Latin rhetoric, which makes the rhetorical [INAUDIBLE] available to English artificers, the disfiguring effects of the changeling on Bottom's form also produce a change in social location. So after his bodily shape has been transfigured, he is transported up away from the other mechanicals and into the fairy queen's bower.
So to borrow, once again, the terminology of English descriptions of Hypallage, when an artisan shares a bed with the fairy queen, the natural order of things has indeed been perverted. Bottom substitutes for the changeling boy in Titania' affections. He takes the place of a stolen child, a changeling, for a changeling. And this scene has been read as a kind of eroticized return to childhood in which a grown man gets the chance to lie with the fictive materials of his nursery tales. And this too, I think, constitutes part of the disorderly plot of English rhetoric.
Bottom's translation, according to the figure of the changeling, further manifests when he wakes in the forest and attempts to describe his most rare vision. And in his wonder, he actually speaks the rhetorical scheme that figures the deformation of his body and of his experience. So you might think that the unruly mixtures of the night's accidents are confined to the forest outside of Athens. But in fact, at the end of the play, all of the marriage happens. And then there's the performance of the play, Pyramus and Thisbe, in celebration of all of these aristocratic marriages.
And this performance brings the disfiguring effects of this vulgar rhetorical disorder into the midst of the Athenian core. So it's the rude mechanicals that are the stars of this final act of the play. And the audience-- and by this I mean the sort of Elizabethan audience, but also us-- were invited to join with the Athenian nobles in mocking their inability to stand upon points and the ridiculousness of their malapropisms, and so forth. So by this final act of Dream, all of the crossings between the aristocratic characters have been reversed. The requisite marriages have occurred. And Titania has been reconciled to the will of her Oberon.
So all of these changed stories have been changed back. However, the rude mechanicals continue to manifest the effects of the changeling, as they confuse the English language and as Peter Quince introduces the whole production, "Disfigure the matter of Pyramus and Thisbe." And then at the end of the tragically mirthful performance, Bottom speaks the changeling once more asking, "Will it please you to see the epilogue or to hear a bergamask dance between two of our company?"
Theseus quickly replies, "No epilogue, I pray you." Asking for the dance instead and warning Bottom once again, let your epilogue alone. But although Theseus denies this final importunity from the changeling, the creatures of fairy enter his palace nonetheless, providing the theatrical audience with the sight of the forbidden epilogue after all of the noble characters have gone to sleep. And the fairies' invasion of the court realizes Putnam's picture of upper class English society in which fairies and elves emerge from the mouths of pretty mistresses.
You know, I want to say this infiltration of the fairy world into the aristocratic household doesn't in itself disrupt Theseus's authority. Because they're there so that they can bless the marriage beds and ensure the propagation of noble issue. But the fairies also do defy Theseus's direct command. And that is that they allow the audience to see Puck, the epilogue. And Puck's closing words then break the dramatic frame taking the power to amend the production away from Theseus and his court and transferring it to the paying audience in the public theater.
And then Puck importunes the spectators. He says, "If we shadows have offended, think but this and all is mended. That you have but slumbered here while these visions did appear. And this weak and idle theme no more yielding but a dream.' Imaginative authority has here been conveyed from Theseus to an Elizabethan audience. And the play thus concludes by evoking not antique fables or fairy toys, but rather the contemporary space of the English theater.
And as in the texts of English rhetoric, dream's fairy content interpolates native speakers of a lower and middling sort into a common practice of imaginative device. And one of the earliest vernacular rhetorics describes this process as an attempt to make classical figures of speech part of our own native brood. And as I hope this talk has shown, this manner of procreation also lurks in the conclusion of Dream. Not only do the fairies help secure the reproduction of healthy aristocratic offspring. But they also help produce a vision of vernacular culture that's united by the content of fairy lore and ancient tradition. A fantasy that's apprehended through the disfigured rhetoric of an English weaver. So that's it. Thank you. I know it's late.
Thank you. OK, I guess I'll take questions if anyone has any. Stuart?
AUDIENCE: Yeah, first, being of Welsh descent myself, I resent you're not including the Welsh among the Irish, thieves, and women.
JENNY MANN: Yeah.
AUDIENCE: But second-- and this is just a little bit elaborate. I'm trying to think about this wonderful way in which you're taking-- yourself translating formal figures and schemes back and forth from the thematic into the formal realm and engineering the other translations as well. I'm trying to think of first, on the formal level of what I guess I grew up calling Hypallage as being an incomplete, or partial, or excessive, chiasmus. In other words, when the Bottom says, "The eye of man hath not heard. The ear of man hath not seen," there is that unruliness of the chain of replacements starting up in Hypallage. But it's recouperable through somebody, conceivably somebody in authority, setting down his fist and saying, it's merely a chiastic swap.
JENNY MANN: Right.
AUDIENCE: And I guess what my question is really about is whether in A Midsummer Night's Dream the chiasmus doesn't finally prevail over the Hypallage. I mean, the swap in characters of the four lovers is not symmetrical exactly.
JENNY MANN: Right. Right.
AUDIENCE: But [INAUDIBLE] knows that Theseus and Hippolyta have been suspected of being in a chiastic relationship--
JENNY MANN: Right, right, with Titania and Oberon.
AUDIENCE: --with Titania and Oberon. And that is straightened out by the end with together some of these other substitutions and inversions. So maybe this just turns into the old question, comedy is festival. It emits unruliness.
JENNY MANN: Right.
AUDIENCE: It the domesticates the alien. But when it's over, hey folks, everything is back in its place.
JENNY MANN: Right.
AUDIENCE: I mean, how would you work an answer to that into your linguistic end?
JENNY MANN: Right. Right. Right. Well, I mean, yes, the more dangerous exchanges are certainly straightened out by the end of A Midsummer Night's Dream. And that's a part of its resolution. Nevertheless, I don't think that quite erases the memory of what's most disturbing about the exchanges that happen in the play. I mean, I think the reason why these handbooks are interested in displacing the charges of disorderliness onto the certain set of rhetorical schemes is because it provides a kind of structure, and codification, and control to the idea of disorderliness. It essentially schematizes it. So it's no longer necessarily directly threatening. I mean, what they're worried about is being accused themselves of being socially disorderly by taking Latin art and making it available to anybody who can read in the vernacular.
And one of the earlier guides says, Thomas Wilsons writes, "Well, if everybody have the tools of persuasion, who had worked for the king?" Right? So they're aware of this potential critique of their endeavor. And so I think that's why they make this attempt to take all of those worries about disorderliness and put them onto the figures themselves and marginalize them within their rhetorical catalogs. So Putnam, for instance, includes Hypallage under the column of a bunch of figures he calls trespassers. And they're figures you should use rarely, if ever.
So there's this way in which the rhetorical catalog is used to manage and control fears that you yourself will be read as disorderly, which is all my way of saying I think that level of control, the formal properties of these figures give this quality of disorderliness is precisely the point, I think.
AUDIENCE: So can I just follow up?
JENNY MANN: Yeah.
AUDIENCE: So if women and children learned to use rhetoric, they would then be co-opted into an orderly system that is hierarchical and balanced, rather, and leave their disorderliness behind, would that be an inference that you could draw?
JENNY MANN: Well, it's a weird problem. Because the idea that you would give a woman [INAUDIBLE] the art of rhetoric is really alien to this culture. Because rhetoric is the art of public address. And the idea that a woman would ever speak publicly, I mean, Elizabeth aside, is very, very, very disturbing, which is why women didn't really get a lot of training in formal rhetoric.
But the way I see that relationship playing out is at this moment, at the end of the 16th century, this culture is in the process of taking all of the hierarchies that have been grafted onto the distinction between Latin and English, so elite, male, vulgar, female, and moving that hierarchy inside the vernacular, right? And that's their concern. They want to be able to construct and use an artful vernacular and still have it be readily apparent the difference between them and women, right?
And so after they've successfully achieved this transformation, people will generally admit that there is such a thing as vernacular eloquence. And we can identify it in certain writers, such as Sydney and Spencer. That's when you start to get things like the dictionaries and English language manuals that are trying to establish a standard English, right? That is not the English that women use, but is the sort of English that comes through in other contexts. So I think the women are still going to be disavowed in this use of the art of rhetoric to make certain cultural relationships happen. Long answer. Oh my. OK, Carol?
AUDIENCE: I want to ask you a question. What do you do with the fact that the disobedient daughters do get to marry the men they love? And first let me tell you what I think. Your paper is superior to the beautiful essay by Lewis Adrian Montrose that you allude to as shaping fantasy in that you don't take it-- I mean, you do take-- it seems to me you do have room for the fact that the disobedient daughters get to marry the man they love. Whereas, Montrose's theory can't take account of those. I think that's the one flaw in his article. But I'd like to know what you think.
JENNY MANN: Gosh. Well, I have to say that the sort of terms of my approach to these works tends to regard these characters as parts of a process, a figuration rather than as sort of individual subjectivities that have certain kind of desires that are or are not satisfied. Nevertheless, I think the sort of thematic of the changeling, or Hypallage as I've been describing it, does account for a certain idea of the pleasure of being perverted, which is from [INAUDIBLE], which is to turn away or, to turn off, the path. And I think that that pleasure is perhaps accounted for in what happens with the period of mismatch and then the kind of resolution of the lovers, which does seem to follow a kind of-- well, and as Stuart pointed out, all of these criss crossings start to feel almost sort of mathematical or something in their reversals and exchanges.
So it's true. It's not something that I've directly thought about in the work that I do. But I'm glad you like my essay better. Jonathan?
AUDIENCE: So that was a terrific paper and beautifully constructed. And I'd like to follow up on Stuart's question and your answer to Stuart's question about when you are setting up parallels between the action of the rhetorical treatises and the action of the play, especially at the end where the play you said conveys imaginative authority to the groundlings, to the Elizabethan audience. Here we have Putnam speaking of your ladies and pretty mistresses in court for whose learning I write. I mean, you said the audience for his rhetorical [INAUDIBLE] was not at all school boys. They weren't using them as [INAUDIBLE] to try and understand the Latin [INAUDIBLE]. Is the audience really the ladies in court?
JENNY MANN: This is the kind of mystery of these guides, which is, who on earth would use them? And the answer seems to be not very many people. Because almost none of them were released in subsequent editions. Putnam is the only one who alludes to a female readership.
And I think part of this is because he locates the scene of rhetorical instruction squarely in the court. And that's what he's interested in writing about. He says he wants to make a rude rhymer into a learned and courtly poet. And so that is a social scene that involves women. So women are his figure for the unlearned or the person who doesn't yet have this rhetorical knowledge. But in almost all of the other guides, the audience is the youth of the realm. And youth they mean boys.
So the young boys of the realm, I mean, potentially they would have been useful as cribs for boys who are having trouble or struggling with their Latin learning. They might also have been useful for lawyers or preachers who want help in constructing statements in the vernacular. But the problem with these handbooks and I think the reason why nobody's talked about them very much is that as documents of instruction, they seem to be really ineffectual.
Like you look at some of these vast dictionaries of 180 figures of speech. And you think, no one would finish this and then all of a sudden, be able to speak or write persuasively. I mean, they seem to be somehow ineffectual in their stated aim. And so you know what?
AUDIENCE: Does that effect your project?
JENNY MANN: No, because for me whether or not they changed the practice of rhetoric or had an influence on school room practice is incidental. I just want to find a way to understand how this writing happened. So for me, these rhetorical guides are like a little glimpse into the mind of someone who's been through this Latin training and then sits down to write in the vernacular. Like I want to understand that process of linguistic exchange.
And so I'm trying to use these rhetorical handbooks as an evidence of that process, which hasn't necessarily survived in other forms. So I'm using them symptomatically in that sense. You know, I think that what they function is as a kind-- they show how rhetoric was functioning as a kind of cultural capital. Obviously, bits and pieces of this technical terminology were thought to be by these publishers commodities, right? People would buy these books and maybe-- I don't know-- drop words like metaphor in conversation. Or something was going to be useful to come out of this.
But for me, their aim is not I guess, why they interest me. Paul?
AUDIENCE: Jonathan asked my question. But I still wanted to follow that up by [INAUDIBLE]. Is Putnam's entire art of English poetry [INAUDIBLE]? Or is it only this moment in it? Because if it's only this moment, one might want to argue that the dimension of women is a [INAUDIBLE] away from the men as sort of saying, now, you ladies happen to know about changelings. Because you happen to know about nurses. And you happen to know about babies. And the guys don't. So let me kind of swerve in your direction. I mean, that would be the way to read this passage if it's the only reference to women. It would be much different picture, of course, if he represents himself consistently as--
JENNY MANN: Yes.
AUDIENCE: And then I had another question after that.
JENNY MANN: Maybe I'll speak to that first. The women come up frequently. They tend to come up when he is apologizing for being pedantic. He worries about the charge that he is being pedantic. So he's like, I don't want you to think I'm like a school man. And I know people in court get bored with lots and lots of rules. But for the women it's important that I spell this out. So it's a way of justifying a kind of moment of instruction. And then women come up over and over again in the text as kind of figures of tropes themselves.
So he says, the way linguistic ornament works, you know how courtly ladies are. They want to decorate themselves with ribbons and jewels. And that's what ornaments do for our language is they make it beautiful. And you wouldn't want a woman to walk into the middle of court naked. That wouldn't be beautiful. And in the same way, nobody should walk into court and speak in an ornamented language. So that's the other way in which women are functioning in Putnam's text. So question number two?
AUDIENCE: Question number two is of course, follow up on the fairies used to steal the fairest children. And of course, you write the [INAUDIBLE] boy is one of the-- I mean, he's not just for detail. But the whole cause of the havoc in fairy land is-- I mean, the last production I saw of A Midsummer Night's Dream is a ballet, which begins and ends with a [? chick. ?]
JENNY MANN: Oh, really?
AUDIENCE: Yeah, so the couples come together at the moment that the exchange of the boys-- [INAUDIBLE].
JENNY MANN: Yeah.
AUDIENCE: I mean, obviously, Oberon [INAUDIBLE]. But in any case, going back to the fairies and their connection with nurses of course, we see fairies in A Midsummer Night's Dream in the double role of maids to [INAUDIBLE]. And then they act as nurse to Bottom and so forth. So my question is, [INAUDIBLE] or something like. What would you say further about the role of fairies? I mean, is there something interesting [INAUDIBLE].
JENNY MANN: Well, I think what's interesting is the way in which-- and there's a great essay on this written by my advisor actually called, Why Does Puck Sweep, about all of the scenes of domestic labor performed by the fairies. And what's clear is that there's this identification of English domesticity, which is usually the space of women with the work of fairies. And so these are all part of the ingredients of vernacularity, right? And these guides have to do something with that in order to make it artful and eloquent.
And so Midsummer Night's Dream is not largely uncomfortable with this fairy domesticity. Or at least it's sort of fully integrated into the plot. But I think the argument that Wendy Wall makes is that this process of consolidating a national identity-- like the fairy domesticity and female work at the heart of this vernacularity is a kind of problem. Or it's something that has to be dealt with when you're constructing a certain vision of a nation, which you presumably want to be virile. OK. Hi.
AUDIENCE: I have a question that's about genre.
JENNY MANN: OK.
AUDIENCE: Because I love what you're doing like bringing Putnam together with this project of other English writers and Shakespeare here. I keep thinking, wondering why is it that the drama in space of the stage is the space in which to work out this [INAUDIBLE] of English rhetoric? And it just seems to offer such fantastic possibilities. Because yes, it is about this literary figuration and making it and unmaking it. You're saying itself makes itself, remakes itself again and again every performance. And you have your actor playing your fairy queen. [INAUDIBLE].
JENNY MANN: That's really beautifully put. And I mean, I'm embarrassed to say that that's not quite the argument I make. Or at least I don't draw a particular connection between these modes of translation and figuration as a project of vernacularization and the embodiment that happens on the English stage, at least not exclusively. So I have other chapters where I talk about how the translation of figures of speech.
For instance, I argue that Sydney's prose romance, The Arcadia, is a sort of vast exploration of the possibilities of parentheses, for example. And I have another chapter in which I talk about how the figure enallage, which changes the gender of words gets worked out in Shakespeare's Sonnet Twenty and also Johnson's Epicene. So actually, my interest, weirdly enough, is to show how this process of translation gets worked out in multiple genres. And the reason that I do that is usually when people try to think about the connection between rhetoric and imaginative literature, they often think of it on the level of lyric. So lyric, poetry is a kind of testing of the possibilities of figuration, or a single figure in a certain kind of condensed context or form of address.
And so I really want to show the ways in which these figures can get exploded into vast and very complex plots. And I just maybe end by saying that your question reminds me to think about how the presence of an actual audience and the exchanges that are happening on the level of the actor's body is maybe something to incorporate in this chapter. That's great. Douglas?
AUDIENCE: Maybe extending on that question. I really enjoyed and appreciated the description of the way rhetoric functions to mix high and low vulgar and classical together within the play. But I was thinking also there's a body of interpretation that focuses on theater as a practice, particularly around Shakespeare's time. It's very fairy character presents mixing and destabilization and the denaturalization of various hierarchies, and arrangements, and configurations.
And I'm thinking particularly of work like Jean Howard's The Stage and Social Struggle [INAUDIBLE] Stephen [INAUDIBLE] stuff in a place of the stage, which argues that theater through the ways that it can mix all sorts of things together have a more radical or subversive social function. So I was wondering if you have views on those kinds of arguments? Is that something you're wanting to deal with?
JENNY MANN: Well, I'm interested in those kind of arguments. I'm trying to write about Henry IV right now. And so I've encountered a lot of the work on sort of popular traditions and their use on this stage is about the history plays and how they seem to negotiate that English history is somehow this collision of high and low Falstaff and the King, comedy and tragedy. And so what do you do with all of that carnival? And how do you translate it into a certain form of order?
So I'm reading about that right now. And you know, my approach to those questions is somewhat different, I think, than from people who are working on the drama exclusively. Because I'm really interested in the particular ways in which these handbooks are trying to promote a certain method of figuration and a certain kind of a language for a certain kind of culture. And what they're worried about is being identified as disorderly and all the ways in which popular festival traditions are disorderly.
And so there's all of the labor is to find a way of controlling this disorderliness through a process of figuration. And so it's a little bit different, I think, from what's happening in the theater, where I'm not sure the primary thrusts of these productions is necessarily to exert a kind of controlling force on all of these elements of English culture that are then appearing on the stage, at least not necessarily. Although, I think it's exactly the same problem. And this is why imaginative works from this period I think are so interesting. Everything feels like this collision of traditions and discourses. And somehow that is what's distinctively English. And it freaks everybody out. Because they feel totally alienated from this thing that should be natural. Like they sucked it at their mother's breast. That's their mother tongue. But it doesn't feel natural. It feels kind of weird and foreign and familiar at the same time.
So I'm interested in how the rhetorical handbooks try and manage that self alienation. Maybe I'll stop. Thank you very much.
SPEAKER 1: And we just also like to thank our friends from the [INAUDIBLE], our friends from Cornell media support. This will be streamed on the web within a certain number of days anyway. Thanks very much. Thank you.
JENNY MANN: Thank you.
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Jenny Mann received her Ph.D. from Northwestern University and was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Cornell's Society for the Humanities before joining the English Department faculty. A specialist in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century British literature and culture, she is completing a book,
Outlaw Rhetoric: Fashioning Vulgar Eloquence in Early Modern England, and articles on Sydney's Arcadia and the hermaphrodite in Early Modern England.