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Abstract

In his Defence of Poetry of c.1579 (first published 1595), Sir Philip Sidney ([1579] 1966: 29) argued that knowledge should lead to 'virtuous action', its aim being 'well-doing and not … well-knowing only.' Of all kinds of writing, he proposed, poetry could achieve this best because it was able to go beyond nature: it could represent worlds in ways that were not limited to what was present in reality, and so could inspire new possibilities. The poet, Sidney wrote, 'makes a Cyrus' ('a figure of manly virtue' ([1579] 1966: 82)), not in order to reproduce the Cyrus of ancient reality, but to represent him in a way that 'make[s] many Cyruses' in the present ([1579] 1966: 24). In this way, the imaginative depiction of heroes and heroic actions, he believed, could lead readers to virtuous emulation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHistorical Understanding
Subtitle of host publicationPast, Present and Future
EditorsZoltán Boldizsár Simon, Lars Diele
Place of PublicationLondon
Chapter18
Number of pages9
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 10 Dec 2020

Keywords

  • historiography
  • animal studies

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