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Scenes of Instruction in Renaissance Romance$
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Jeff Dolven

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780226155364

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226155371.001.0001

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(p.207) Chapter Six Punishment
Scenes of Instruction in Renaissance Romance

Jeff Dolven

University of Chicago Press

This chapter begins with a scene from Robert Whittington's Vulgaria of 1520 to illustrate a notion of punishment: that punishment is not just an instrument of order in the classroom, but is itself a mode of instruction; that beating is a kind of teaching. The 1596 Faerie Queene, and particularly its last two books, wrestles with that equation. So will this chapter; for punishment fits all too well into the didactic problems addressed in the present study, in a way that almost suggests it could be paradigmatic. Whittington's little scene, for example, has a familiar double aspect. First, there is the lesson it teaches to its victim, who actually suffers the blows. Second, there is a lesson for the audience that watches the scene, whether in the imaginary schoolroom where the beating takes place or in the real schoolrooms where the sentences were read. This doubleness offers a particularly stark version of a problem to which this study has returned again and again: the relation between the representation of the scene of instruction inside a poem, among its characters, and the poem's didactic designs on its readers. It also returns us to Spenser's dark suggestion that learning by example must come at the example's expense.

Keywords:   teaching, beating, instruction, poem

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