Wyatt's "My Mother's Maids" and the Perils of Ignorance

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Title: Wyatt's "My Mother's Maids" and the Perils of Ignorance
Author: Brock, Kevin Michael
Advisors: Carmine Prioli, Committee Member
Brian Blackley, Committee Member
M. Thomas Hester, Committee Chair
Abstract: Sir Thomas Wyatt's epistolary satire, "My mother's maids," is often overlooked by critics, purportedly because of the superiority of the poet's other two verse satires; and too often dismissed as little more than a straightforward retelling of the "country mouse" fable in Horace's Satire 2.6. However, Wyatt's version does not merely endorse Horace's view of the superiority of the simple country life over that of the city and court. Indeed, his poem focuses attention on the inherent violence that characterizes the outside world regardless of the setting. In fact, Wyatt's poem is better read as a satire of its Horatian "source," genre, and central theme about the peace and contentment that can be supposedly found in the country. For Wyatt, exerting any effort to find peace outside of oneself is not only a chimera but a search that may inevitably end in tragedy. This inward focus is reflected beyond this satire in his lyric poems, where Wyatt's criticisms of his fellow courtiers for lacking such a focus grow more ambiguous, veiled by careful use of narrative personae. Wyatt ultimately argues that the only way to survive in the court is through a Stoic philosophy, turning inward and trusting only in oneself and the certainty of appearance as appearance rather than possessing faith in others or the outside world.
Date: 2007-07-10
Degree: MA
Discipline: English
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/372


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