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Chapter 2 - Romancing Contentment

Sex, Suffering, and the Passions in Sidney’s Arcadias

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 December 2022

Paul Joseph Zajac
Affiliation:
McDaniel College
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Summary

Chapter 2 explores how Sidney uses literary form for passionate experimentation and develops a sophisticated affective vocabulary that intersects with the reformation of contentment. Neither The Old Arcadia nor the revised New Arcadia reproduce Protestant concepts of contentedness or proselytize an idealized Christian psychology. Instead, in The Old Arcadia Sidney pursues the strategies of romance, including the “wandering,” “error,” and “trial” described by Patricia Parker, and arrives at counter-intuitive and potentially scandalizing conclusions about the emotion. More specifically, Sidney aligns both sexual satisfaction and virtuous endurance with contentment, and he makes the character Pyrocles’s erotic fulfillment in Books 3 and 4 instrumental to his pious suffering in Book 5. However, in The New Arcadia, Sidney displaces the most extreme manifestations of desire from the four young lovers onto their antagonists, and he disentangles contentment and constancy in the face of adversity. By pushing contentment to the pastoral peripheries to emphasize the revised work’s more chivalric tenor, Sidney recoils from his most innovative contribution to the Renaissance discourse.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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  • Romancing Contentment
  • Paul Joseph Zajac, McDaniel College
  • Book: Emotion and the Self in English Renaissance Literature
  • Online publication: 15 December 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009271653.003
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  • Romancing Contentment
  • Paul Joseph Zajac, McDaniel College
  • Book: Emotion and the Self in English Renaissance Literature
  • Online publication: 15 December 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009271653.003
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Romancing Contentment
  • Paul Joseph Zajac, McDaniel College
  • Book: Emotion and the Self in English Renaissance Literature
  • Online publication: 15 December 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009271653.003
Available formats
×