About the Project

Introduction

In a general sense, a commonplace book is “a book in which ‘commonplaces’ or passages important for reference were collected, usually under general heads; hence, a book in which one records passages or matters to be especially remembered or referred to, with or without arrangement” (OED “commonplace-book”). Writers often used commonplace books in order to remember these passages for their own works. Commonplace books also allowed one to find arguments needed in multiple contexts, as all of the ideas needed were gathered into one book. According to Harvard’s site on commonplace books (Harvard's Commonplace Books), while writers in the medieval and early modern periods focused on a few specific topics, now commonplace books can be written “on various topics, including the law, science, alchemy, ballads, and theology.”

Commonplacing began in antiquity in the idea of loci communes, or “common places,” where ideas could be located if they were needed for certain situations. This practice continued into the medieval period, when the excerpts collected focused mainly on religious or theological ideas. Harvard’s site on commonplace books states that “Commonplace books flourished during the Renaissance and early modern period: students and scholars were encouraged to keep commonplace books for study, and printed commonplace books offered models for organizing and arranging excerpts.” The thought was that commonplace books allowed a reader to contextualize the readings and books into less abstract ideas and concepts. Commonplace books from the medieval and early modern periods often contained re-workings and re-writings of poems, lists and other non-reading related writings. Commonplacing remained popular until the late nineteenth century, when books became more affordable and the practice was replaced by scrapbooking.

The commonplace book provided a space for our class to concretely track and make note of the topics, ideas, and techniques that we encountered while reading—all of which we would typically only make a fleeting, impermanent mental note of. Having been exposed to a variety of poets and texts throughout the semester, the commonplace book served as a nexus through which we could identify and record connections between and amongst the various works, and revisit to consider the larger stakes of such interconnectivity.

Upon reflection, the class found the experience of keeping a commonplace book to be valuable and rewarding. Several students commented on the effect that commonplacing had on their reading experience and practices. Jaime noted that, “A commonplace book can completely change the dynamic of the reader experience. While reading can be sometimes thought of as a passive experience, one that allows a person to absorb another’s creativity and ideas, a commonplace book amplifies that process.” Similarly, Molly commented, “I do think that the practice of keeping a commonplace book made me both a better and more involved reader. It forced me to slow down and look for themes in each individual reading, followed by finding the quotes that I felt best supported that theme and an analysis of them.”

In addition to enhancing one’s reading practices, keeping a commonplace book proved to be an enjoyable experience as well. Erica states, “As I read through each work I found myself looking for particularly beautiful passages and it was not only helpful but immensely enjoyable to be encouraged to write down what I found interesting and give it more extensive consideration. I believe I was even able to assign more meaning to certain reappearing themes and phrases simply by writing them down and categorizing them.” Both wisdom and delight were found in our class immersion in this early modern practice.

 

Table of Contents

1.     Classical………………………………………………………………………………………1

1.1.  Classical References

1.2.  Cupid

1.3.  Muses

1.4.  Myth/Myths/References

2.     Color/Materials………………………………………………………………………………6

2.1.  Alabaster

2.2.  Color

2.3.  Diamonds

2.4.  Gold

2.5.  Metals

2.6.  Red

2.7.  Silver

2.8.  White

3.     Emotions……………………………………………………………………………………15

3.1.  Agency

3.2.  Blame

3.3.  Desire

3.4.  Desire vs. Reason

3.5.  Discernment

3.6.  Emotion

3.7.  Guilt

3.8.  Pain

3.9.  Pride

3.10.  Self Love

3.11.  Shame

4.     Faith……………………………………………………………………………………….…32

4.1.  Angels

4.2.  Churches

4.3.  Death

4.4.  Evil

4.5.  Faith

4.6.  Heaven

4.7.  Innocence

4.8.  Inward Sun/Light

4.9.  Random

4.10.  Roman Catholicism

4.11.  Virtue

5.     Gender/Sexuality……………………………………………………………………………43

5.1.  Androgyny

5.2.  Beauty

5.3.  Homoeroticism

5.4.  Kisses

5.5.  Love

5.6.  Lust

5.7.  Misogyny

5.8.  Mother

5.9.  Objectification of Women

5.10.  Veins

5.11.  Women

6.     Knowledge/Vocation……………………………………………………………………..…54

6.1.  Commentary

6.2.  Commonplacing

6.3.  Knowledge

6.4.  Limitation of Words

6.5.  Power of Poetry

6.6.  Vocational Anxiety

7.     Nature/Light…………………………………………………………………………………60

7.1.  Animals

7.2.  Birds

7.3.  Brightness

7.4.  Darkness

7.5.  Eyes

7.6.  Hunt

7.7.  Hunter

7.8.  Light

7.9.  Nature

7.10.  Nature/Animals

7.11.  Night

7.12.  Predator vs. Prey

7.13.  Prey

7.14.  Stars

7.15.  Sun

8.     Society…………………………………………………………………………………..……88

8.1.  Assured

8.2.  Fortune

8.3.  Home Militant Language

8.4.  Politics

9.     Time…………………………………………………………………………………….……98

9.1.  Age

9.2.  Carpe Diem

9.3.  Eternal/Ephemeral

9.4.  Eternity

9.5.  Fate

9.6.  Time

 

Bibliography

Burrow, Colin, ed. The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Sonnets and Poems. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print.

Lanyer, Aemilia. Salve Dues Rex Judaeorum. London: 1611. Web http://eebo.chadwyck.com/search/full_rec?SOURCE=pgimages.cfg&ACTION=ByID&ID=V8709

Norbrook, David. “Lucy Hutchinson’s ‘Elegies’ and the Situation of the Republican Woman Writer.” English Literary Renaissance 27 (1997), 468-521.

Orgel, Stephen and Jonathan Goldberg, eds. John Milton: The Major Works. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2003. Print.

Prescott, Anne Lake and Andrew D. Hadfield, eds. Edmund Spenser’s Poetry. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2013. Print.

Rumrich, John P. and Gregory Chaplin, eds. Seventeenth-Century British Poetry 1603-1660. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2006. Print.

Duncan-Jones, Katherine, ed. Sir Philip Sidney: The Major Works. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.

Sylvester, Richard Standish, ed. English Sixteenth-century Verse: An Anthology. New York: Norton, 1984. Print.

© IMRC CAS 2016