In his “Answer to Davenant’s Preface to Gondibert,” Thomas Hobbes takes a stab at literary theory. He is prompted to write the reply because Davenant mentions Hobbes in the preface to the epic poem, Gondibert. Hobbes notes up front that he is hindered in two ways because he is 1) incompetent in poetry and 2) flattered by the praise Davenant has lauded him. These hindrances don’t prevent Hobbes from detailing a general theory of poetry. He delineates the different types of poetry, discusses the poet and mode of composition, and addresses issues of form, content, and style. His ideas are based largely on his philosophy of rational thought and empirical evidence.
Hobbes begins by dividing poetry into three types that correspond with the three types of philosophy and the three “regions of mankind.” Philosopy can be divided into “celestial, aerial, and terrestrial.” Mankind divides itself into “court, city, and country.” Poets write about these three different regions of mankind in “three sorts of poesy, heroic, scommatic, and pastoral.” Each of these types of poetry can be conveyed in either a narrative or dramatic form. Hobbes writes:
the heroic poem narrative…is called an epic poem. The heroic poem dramatic is tragedy. The scommatic narrative is satire, dramatic is comedy. The pastoral narrative is called simply pastoral…; the same dramatic, pastoral comedy.
In this way he describes the “six sorts of poesy;” there can be no more or less than that. On the subject of what is a poem, Hobbes reiterates the Aristotelian concept that verse alone does not make poetry. Hobbes sums up the difference between historical or philosophical verse and poetic verse like so:
But the subject of a poem is the manners of men, not natural causes; manners presented, not dictated; and manners feigned, as the name of poesy imports, not found in men.
He goes on to allow that “fictions writ in prose” may be given entrance into the world of poetry because prose delights both in fiction and in style, but, were prose and poetry to contend toe-to-toe, it would be as if prose were “on foot against the strength and wings of Pegasus.”
Hobbes addresses briefly the conventions of verse and rhyme in poetry. He iterates that ancient poets created verse to go along with musical accompaniment, which was necessary because of their religious beliefs.
Power Relations Exposed in Truth and Power
Power Relations Exposed in Truth and Power
In “Truth and Power” Michel Foucault revisits the major theoretical trends and questions of his career. He is a thinker who knows no bounds of subject or field. His ideas stretch from literature to science, from psychology to labor. He deals in a currency that is accepted everywhere: truth and power. Foucault spends much of his career tracing the threads of truth and power as they intertwine with the history of human experience. He especially loves to study asylums and prisons because they are close to an encapsulated power structure. Using techniques culled from psychology, politics, anthropology, sociology, and archaeology, Foucault presents a highly politicized analysis of the flow of power and power relations.
“Truth and Power” is an excerpted version of an interview with Alesandro Fontana and Pasquale Pasquino that initially appeared as “Intervista a Miche Foucault” in Microfiseca del Poetere in 1977. The interviewers first ask Foucault to revisit some of his earlier ideas and trace the path of his career. Foucault began looking at asylums, and tried to create his theories with an eye toward French politics of the Left. He soon turned to evaluating other sciences such as biology, political economy, and medicine, and came up with the concept of discontinuity: “It seemed to me that … the rhythm of transformation doesn’t follow the smooth, continuist schemas of development which are normally accepted.” The idea of discontinuity became a tag which other critics and thinkers applied to him, much to his dismay. Foucault wanted only to show the susceptibility of the sciences and scientific statements to the pressures of power:
At this level it’s not so much a matter of knowing what external power imposes itself on science, as of what effects of power circulate among scientific statements, what constitutes, as it were, their internal regime of power, and how and why at certain moments that regime undergoes a global modification.
This idea echoes Thomas Kuhn’s ideas about paradigm shifts in a science, and even reverberates back to Dryden’s statements about every age’s “universal genius.” Dryden stated that in every generation there is a general inclination of thought that affects all disciplines. Kuhn proliferated the idea that major revolutions in science are due to major paradigm shifts.
The discussion then moves to structuralism, where Foucault makes some major statements about the structure of history. Foucault is ardent in asserting, “I don’t see who could be more of an anti-structuralist than myself.