Renaissance vertical reading from vers rapporté to Shakespeare's Sonnets



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In her analysis of Shakespeare's Sonnets, Helen Vendler points out Shakespeare's systematic repetition of keywords and reiteration of meaningful words in the couplet, which she calls couplet ties. This thesis seeks to frame Vendler's discovery by considering its literary context. Shakespeare's repetition of keywords induces a mode of reading that disregards the conventional, linear organization of the poem and establishes vertical connections between significant words. This vertical reading is tightly connected to the widespread tradition of vers rapporté, or recursive verse. Retracing the history of vers rapporté from its probable origin in the classical art of memory to its most complex adaptation in Shakespeare's Sonnets reveals the evolution of reading and writing practices during the Renaissance period. Combining literary history and theory, cognitive archaeology, and formal analysis, this thesis attempts to provide an interdisciplinary perspective on the literary, cultural and cognitive foundations of Renaissance vertical reading and writing practices with a focus on French and English sonneteers.