General vs Particular Knowledge

Kevin Dooley

Question 1.e

One point where Sidney summarizes his argument is on page 18, where he states, “For conclusion, I say the philosopher teacheth, but he teacheth obscurely” while “the poet is indeed the right popular philosopher,” meaning that poets provide a much more accessible brand of philosophy than the philosopher’s themselves.  He further explores this dynamic of the poet as a philosopher for the common man vs. inaccessible traditional philosophers when he writes how poets can illustrate concepts with “a perfect picture…[that] yieldeth to the powers of the mind” while philosophers are stuck with “wordish descriptions.”  Specifically, he writes how, for a man who has never seen an animal such as an elephant in person before, a picture “well painted” would be much better at delivering its image than even the “most exquisite” of verbal descriptions, demonstrating the power of the “the speaking picture of poesy” (Sidney 16).  Another moment of conclusion is on page 21 where Sidney discusses how poets are superior to historians through the fact that they “not only…furnish the mind with knowledge” but also teach and encourage good morality.  He discusses this more specifically by showcasing how history actually is “an encouragement to unbridled wickedness” with figures like “the cruel Severus liv[ing] prosperously” and “the accomplished Socrates [being] put to death,” while poets “deviseth new punishments in hell for tyrants” in their work (Sidney 21).  Lastly, Sidney concludes his thoughts again when he states, on page 25, that the poet’s ability to draw delight from even the most horrifying things allows him to “draw the mind more effectually than any other art,” and therefore the poet “is the most excellent workman.”  Earlier, he elaborates on this by citing Aristotle’s proclamation that “those things which in themselves are horrible, as cruel battles, unnatural monsters, are made in poetical imitation delightful” (Sidney 23).  He then states how even “hard hearted, evil men” will be able to draw delight from poetry, while “despis[ing] the austere admonitions of the philosopher” (Sidney 24).

These instances of general vs. particular knowledge allow Sidney to clarify his arguments at key points while still giving his Defence depth.  By putting his more general statements after his more specific examples, he lets readers make sense of his work as they read on, bringing much needed summaries to the varied and dense examples that can sometimes get lost in his prose.  In his Defence, the general knowledge provides the overall structure on which the piece rests, allowing the particular examples to fill in the body and flesh out the work.  In addition, given that much of his general knowledge comes from Aristotle and not himself, his more particular examples allow him to contribute new knowledge to the discussion of poesy and make the Defence worth reading as a unique piece of work, even despite the large lack of originality in his general knowledge.  With his Defence of Poesy, Sidney is able to take the general teachings of Aristotle in the Renaissance’s spirit of copying the classics, and provide an update with the particular knowledge he brings in his work.

Delight and Laughter

(3)What is the difference between delight and laughter? Provide 2 quotations to support your answer, and explain how it connects to any of the reasons poesy is good.


It is common for people to think that delight can only be found in things that bring laughter, just like the comedians that Sidney writes about believe. However, Sidney wants to argue that delight and laughter are actually quite different. He says “For Delight we scarcely do, but in things that have a conveniency to ourselves…; laughter almost ever cometh of things most disproportionate to ourselves and nature” (46-47). What this means is that we take delight in things that are familiar to us, but we often laugh at things that are not familiar to us or opposite to us. Sidney writes “for example, we are ravished with delight to see a fair woman” (47) but we don’t laugh, while “we laugh at deformed creatures” (47), but we do not find delight in them. The point is, we often laugh at things that are delightful in any way, like the example of the deformed creature. However, it is something that is so different from us, that we cannot help but to laugh at it. Delight comes from something familiar that we understand and may even love. We delight in the beautiful woman because we recognize her to be beautiful and that is something that we like. I believe that Sidney also wants to say that poesy has the ability to product delight and laughter on their own, but also together.

I think the ability to delight and cause laughter relates to the idea that poesy is good because it is different from the philosophers. The ability to cause delight, which Sidney writes is a main goal of poesy, comes from creating things that the reader or listener is familiar with and line up with them and their nature. However, the philosophers were too abstract and, therefore, could not be understood and could not cause delight. However, poesy is not like philosophy, rather it is relatable and causes delight in the reader.


-Melissa Korteweg

Aristotle and Sidney–Parallels and Jumping-Off Points

In Sidney’s “The Defence of Poesy,” his central focus is in addressing the relationship and conflicts between the philosopher, the historian, and the poet. Much of Sidney’s argument to this point not only subscribes to the Aristotelian view that poetry highlights universal truths, but treats much of Aristotle’s assertions themselves as truth, and uses them as a given jumping off point for Sidney’s own argument, particularly in his discussion of imitation and history. Sidney even begins one quotation: “Truly, Aristotle himself…”, as if accepting his word as this divine set of universal truth.

In the discussion of Poesy vs. History, Sidney declares that historians’ often obsessive focus on facts is detrimental to its form, instead arguing that poetry is far more reliable as moral instruction because of its emphasis on rational principles. Not only does this assume Aristotle’s assertion that “superiority” is a question of morals—like Aristotle, Sidney also maintains that the poet is superior in his (or her, though the possibility of her is a point ignored by both) ability to portray both moral guidance and instruction. Aristotle preaches a similar hierarchy, with similar reasoning, by placing the historiographer behind both the poet and the philosopher. He asserts that “it is not the function of the poet to relate what has happened but what may happen – according to the laws of probability or necessity.” Therefore, poetry has the ability and duty to express the universal rather than the situational, placing it over history in importance. Sidney extends this superiority by calling to question the historiographer’s desire to resemble the work of the poets, saying that “even historiographers…have been glad to borrow both fashion (form) and perchance weight of the poets.” (5)

Imitation’s ability to produce both pleasure and learning, according to Poetics, can also be seen as the basis for Sidney’s reference to poetry’s ability to “teach and delight” (10). In this way, Sidney’s theory of poetry is indirectly connected to the general Aristotelian idea of poetry as imitation. Aristotle’s argument however, I found to be more heavily based on educating a virtuous society, the central question of poetics beings: “How do I make people more virtuous with this book?” Sidney’s more masterfully evades the question of morals, instead remaining firmly based in the book’s title “The Defense of Poesy”, and its original title “An Apology for Poetry”, at times even relying on mimesis to continually defend poetry, saying: “there is no art delivered to mankind that hath not the works of nature for his principal object” (8). His reliance on Aristotle to make his argument was something that I saw as flawing Sidney’s argument, being perfectly encapsulated by a line on page 19: “Thus far Aristotle: which reason of his, as all his, is most full of reason.” In this sort of discussion, to accept completely another philosopher’s reason is to limit your argument to that person’s own reasonable limitations.

Delight, Laughter, and What Makes Good Poesy

Irisdelia Garcia

Word Count: 392

Sidney makes the argument that “delight” and “laughter” can exist as concepts exclusive of one another instead of being co-dependent. He states that “delight hath a joy in it, either permanent or present.  Laughter hath only a scornful tickling…we laugh at deformed creatures, wherein certain we cannot delight. We delight in good chances; we laugh at mischances.” (Sidney 47) We can find delight in things without it coupled with laughter. We can laugh at things and find little to no delight in it. Then, what is delight, if not with laughter? Laughter, as Sidney points out, is sometimes fueled by “sinful things” (48) while delight is “power[ed] by love” (48). He even goes on to mention Aristotle who, too, spoke to the delights and pleasure received from art.

“And the great fault even in that point of laughter [in reference to what induces laughter], and forbidden plainly by Aristotle, is that they stir laughter in sinful things…” (48).

How does this relate to poesy and how does this fit in with poesy being good? Based in Aristotle’s rhetoric, “poesy…is an art of imitation, for so Aristotle termeth it in the word mimesis…a representing, counterfeiting or figuring forth….with this end: to teach and delight.” (10). If art, in its essence, is imitation that brings pleasure and delight, and poesy is a craft built in imitation, representation, and metaphor, then poesy’s purpose is to bring delight. Aristotle speaks to how the idea of art being imitation gives pleasure to audience because it speaks to our embodied knowledge without necessarily having said audience experience it directly. When we see a painting of a flower, we find pleasure in comparing that painting to what we know of flowers and even marveling at the representation of such a thing in this particular form. For Sidney, poesy does the same thing in its form, crafting worlds in metaphor and imitation that, coming back to the differences between delight and laughter, is coupled with care, love, and “leisure,” a concept he critiques historians and philosophers alike in lacking. Poesy is the art of imitation and, in good imitation, its end goal is to teach and delight in its representation. Eliciting laughter is only but a bonus in delight but, in its essence, is often not needed and actually a signifier for some form of scorn with the art presented.

Sidney Participation Assignment

    1. (3)What is the difference between delight and laughter? Provide 2 quotations to support your answer, and explain how it connects to any of the reasons poesy is good.

According to Sidney, delight and laughter may exist together or separately. One does not come from the other, but rather from a third, shared source. However, they differ in the fact that delight is sweet, while laughter is wicked. One way Sidney communicates this is by saying “For delight we scarcely do, but in things that have a conveniency to ourselves or to the general nature; laughter almost ever cometh of things most disproportioned to ourselves and nature.” Here he is saying that delight is fueled by things that are right (like good fortune), and laughter is fueled by things that are wrong (like the misfortune of others). In this way the former is more innocent than the unfriendly latter. Sidney goes on to say “Delight hath a joy in it, either permanent of present; laughter hath only a scornful tickling.” This further description makes a distinction between a victimless act and one that needs to mock.

These aspects of delight and laughter are important to poesy and to life, because Sidney considers the ultimate goal of life to be to learn how to do and be good. To him, poetry is the best teacher and the most effective way to accomplish this. Therefore, poesy is good because it aids in the growth of a good citizen and a good society. Sidney talks of the “comical part” which contributes to the “delightful teaching which is the end of poesy.” Delight and laughter make teaching and learning more appealing and interesting, through their comical and joyous natures. So, poesy’s ability to do good through education is strengthened when delight and/or humor are introduced.

(quotations from pages 47-48)



Laughter vs delight: poesy as the ultimate art form

Sydney Tate

Digital Humanism

Professor Henrichs


Word count: 497


Throughout Phillip Sidney’s “Defense of Poesy” he talks about the distinctions between history, philosophy, comedy and poetry, and makes a defense for poetry being the best art form. Throughout his work, he seems to reference back often to the words delight and laughter, however he does not seem to be using these words interchangeably. Delight and laughter are completely different reactions to Sidney are created by different circumstances. But what exactly is the difference between them? You can first look at the difference in definition of the words: delight and laughter. According to the Miriam Webster dictionary, delight can be defined as “something that gives great pleasure” whereas laughter can be defined looking at the archaic definition, as “a cause of merriment”. One of the distinctions that Sidney makes between the two is that Delight can be obtained without laughter, but laughter cannot be obtained without delight. He distinguishes the two primarily through looking at comedy as a form of medium. Comedy, elicits laughter, and in a sense, elicits a certain type of superficial delight. Sidney sees comedy as a lower medium form, saying “Third is, how much it abuseth men’s wit, training it to wanton sinfulness and lustful love: for indeed that is the principal, if not only, abuse I can hear alleged. They say the comedies rather teach than reprehend amorous conceits.” (Sidney, 35) Comedy is what elicits laughter, not poetry. Comedy is turning to the darkest parts of humans, and mortal sin to bring emotion. Whereas delight is elicited by something bigger, delight is elicited by Truth. “making a school of art that which the poets did only teach by a divine delightfulness, beginning to spurn at their guides, like ungrateful prentices were not content to set up shops for themselves, but sought by all means to discredit their masters; which, by the force of delight, being barred them, the less they could overthrow them, and the more they hated them.” (Sidney, 39). Poets search for Truth, and these truths that they write bring out delight both in them and in any of their readers. “even Turks and Tartars are delighted with poets.” (Sidney, 37) Now how exactly does this connect back to Sidney’s defense? Sidney’s defense of poesy focuses on the idea the poesy (or the art of writing poetry) is more effective than both philosophy, history and comedy because it pulls the great parts of both of those fields and those categories into one art form. The point of all of these categories is to teach people, and lead them towards virtue. Sidney argues however that poesy not only teaches the readers, but that its main purpose is also to delight the reader in order for the reader to continue being taught. Posey argues that we as people are delighted by the truth. Poets are seeking out to find truth and again, lead people to virtue. Delight is rooted in Truth where as laughter is rooted in mortal sin and fleeting pleasure.



The connections between Sidney’s syllogistic style of argument and his use of irony and/or humor.


In Defense of Poesy, Sidney, by using irony and humor (often satirical), Sidney disparage a certain target . Also, he frequently refers to classical models, fables, and anecdotes which enliven  his critical literary writing. Sidney attempts to delight and to teach the audience through the usage of irony and humor, just as a poet would do through its poesy.

For example, irony is the core statement when Sidney discuss about the relationships between a poet and a historian. He does not merely insist the superiority of a poet over a historian but instead argues,  “And even historiographers, although their lips sound of things done and verity be written in their foreheads, have been glad to borrow both fashion and perchance weight of poets” (Sidney, 9).  Sidney ironically ridicules how the historiographers have their “verity be written in their foreheads” and suggest the superiority of a poet.  

Referring to Aristotle’s argument; “because poesy dealeth with katholou, that is to say with the universal consideration, and the history with kath’hekaston, the particular”(Sydney, 18), Sidney attacks on how historical approach can only say what has happened, unlike poetry which can say what might happen. Sidney then, humorously using Vespasian’s picture as example, argues how things could turn out more pleasant and historians should take poetic approach which is not to see everything truly. “And whereas a….but if he know an example only informs a conjectured likelihood, and so go by reason, the poet doth so far exceed him, as he is to frame his example to that which is most reasonable, be it in warlike, politic or private matters, where the historian in his bare ‘was’ wisdom – many times he must tell events whereof he can yield no cause, of if he do, it must be poetically”(Sidney, 19).

Furthermore, Sidney argues how poesy has been highly esteemed by all over the nations, emphasizing on the Romans who have called a poet as “vates” (a diviner, foreseer or prophet) and the Greeks who have called a poet “a maker”. Then, he ironically states how even the barbarous and uncivilized Indians have their own poets and he pushes on his argument on the later part of Defense of Poesy when he says, “And therefore, as I said in the beginning, even Turks and Tartars are delighted with poets” (Sidney, 37). Thus, it is wrong to despise poets and the “civilized” people (Englishmen) should respect them.

Sidney, throughout Defense of Poesy, teaches and delights (which is what a poesy should do) the audience by ironically criticizing a historian in order to present the supremacy of a poet.

Posted by: Hikari Yoshida


Class yesterday featured a robust discussion of different digital projects (including Six Degrees of Francis Bacon, the Grand Tour project out of Stanford, the Folger’s Luna respository); we discussed the strengths and weaknesses of each project in order to think about how to frame our own audience for the final project for the course.

Things we liked:

  • the geographical heat map of how many British architects visited which sites in Italy.
    • Made information accessible at a glance.
  • How the Data Viewer in the Grand Tour project included a visualization of which data points were missing
    • provided a more complete picture of the dataset.
  • Six Degrees had SO MUCH INFORMATION

Things we didn’t like:

  • There was TOO MUCH INFORMATION on the Six Degrees site for a non-expert audience to understand what they were even looking at.
    • Completeness was actually overwhelming, as opposed to the clarity provided by the Grand Tour.
      • This suggests that breaking up our site into various kinds of interfaces is going to be more useful.
    • The Luna site was also difficult for a non-expert audience who was dropped in without any guidance.

What these example projects highlighted was that, for us, accessibility and transparency of design is paramount, especially because we are dealing with many layers of information. This did help us narrow down the audience: we want to target the site to interested and engaged nonexperts by foregrounding the Explorations of the metaphors of the internet. This means the design of the site will need to facilitate some of the links between the various kinds of metaphors and figures that we are dealing with.


Yet there is another layer to this course: the rhetorical manuals by authors like Puttenham and Sidney, plus a selection of scholarly articles on the digital humanities. Thus, while the focus is on the metaphors of the internet, the user will also be able to navigate through to explore the more academically-inclined underpinnings of the site.

Given the priority placed on clarity, navigability, and multiple ways to interact with information, we are going to focus on creating an interactive interface in Twine for the primary user interface. This will allow users to choose what kinds of information they want to see, while also providing access to all the information available.

Another point raised in class was that we need to make some decisions about the priorities for the site. (What this really means is that Dr. H needs to make up her mind about the options available!) So without further ado, here are the options and platforms that students will choose from for their part of the final project.

  1. Twine interface which covers the linkages across multiple levels of information. While not all the work will happen in Twine, all the work will be accessible through Twine.
  2. Using timeline.js to create a chronology both of when figurative language like “the cloud” and “forum” were introduced into English, and when they took on their figurative meanings.
  3. Using either Palladio or Gephi (depending on ability and preference) to create a network of the early modern rhetoricians. This will include links to the words that become internet metaphors if and when they appear in the early modern texts.

So this is where we are at: now students will pick which design tack they would like to take. This work will be in pairs (with one group of three); so while these options are certainly ambitious, we will be working as a team.

Evaluation, rigor, and the future of the site

After a long discussion of Philip Sidney’s Defence of Poesy, and some great discussion of the figures forum, internet, and chat room (and thanks to Iris for presenting!) that ranged through the material and embodied overtones those word-concepts lend to our abstracted understandings of the internet, we got down to the business of making decisions about the final project. This post will restate those decisions, and outline our shared expectations for the future of the website.


One of the main points of conversation was how to evaluate digital work, especially as related to (though not necessarily compared to) traditional literary scholarship. In the world of the digital humanities, evaluation is still very much on an ad hoc, case-by-case basis; and it seems to me that the best way to establish clear criteria and expectations for digital work is to make those expectations ourselves, within the guidelines of humanistic rigor. In other words, learning and deploying technology in a sophisticated way is a challenging intellectual endeavor, and should count as such!


This discussion of rigor and evaluation will be ongoing, and I will do my best to record it as we make decisions, in the hope that some of the guidelines we establish will be useful going forward, both to the students in the class and (potentially) to a larger audience.


For our particular purposes, my requirements were brief:

  1. Content will be curated from the Explorations students write over the course of the semester.
    • Explorations will need to be edited, and duplicate entries condensed;
    • An explanatory preface will be generated
  2. There should be some sort of chronological element: I suggested timeline.js for its relative ease, but platform remains an open question.
    • This led to the related question: the figures we are working with have a clear usage history, as traced in the OED. But how much chronology are we actually talking about? Is this:
      • The entire history of the word, from its original etymons to the point it began to be deployed in regards to the digital world?
      • Every single figure I listed on the syllabus?
        • (this is the default for now, with the caveat that digital projects often throw up unexpected roadblocks, and we might have to adjust this expectation)
      • A relative chronology, with multiple timelines for each term?
  3. Other design elements are dependent on the people working on the design end
    • Documentation will be a crucial portion of design, including explaining what decisions were made and why.
      • This is both for class evaluation, and a part of digital best practices. Keeping good records means that when something goes wrong, you hopefully won’t have to dig as deep to find out where the break happened.

Originally, I had conceived of the work of the site being divided into two teams: content, and design.

Notes taken in class on Feb 6 2018

But after students had done a quick speed-dating-style discussion, it emerged that nearly everyone was interested in pursuing the design angle, many wanting to learn more about it through practice.


This was a very pleasant surprise, and led to a complete shift in my thinking. So now, rather than pursuing a more robust content side, we are going to keep the content circumscribed within the Explorations. (We’ll still need a preface and editing, but this will count more as a smaller portion of one person’s task, or possibly be divided among the class as part of their design work.) Instead, we will work through different design methods, different ways of disseminating information: following Mark Sample, we are going to focus on sharing our knowledge.


More concretely, we decided that there needs to be a page where all the figures are listed; those can then link (or bring up hovertext) to the explanations and discussions of the figures. Effectively, the explorations become the index and the way to navigate the site; they will link to a separate page featuring the more lengthy discussions. This is a way of getting at the priority for the site, which is streamlining the presentation of information.


This discussion was still very preliminary; we haven’t formed groups, or decided what the site will look like in its final form. But I’m very excited about this project, and I look forward to seeing what we make together!