A study of eroticism in English non-dramatic poetry 1580-1680.
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For a hundred years, between Marlowe's. translation of Ovid's Amores in the 1580s and Rochester's death in 1680, a current of erotic feeling flows through English amatory verse which has as its source the Ovidian Art of Love. This Art sees sexuality as an autonomous activity and it elaborates amatory techniques and scenarios, described individually as 'topics', to enhance the mutual pleasure of both parties. Such a view of sexual relations challenges the prevailing amatory codes of courtly love and Christian monogamy and not infrequently clashes with them. This study traces the impact of the Art of Love upon all the principal non-dramatic writers of the period with the exception of Shakespeare, The Elizabethan appetite for the sensuous and suggestive is shown to develop into the more calculated sensualism of the Caroline court poets which in turn evolves into a deliberate cultivation of predatory appetite at the Restoration. With Rochester's death in 1680 begins a period of erotic decline,, A concluding chapter charts the eighteenth-century transformation of the Ovidian tradition into sentimentalism, raillery and pornography.
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