the passionate godTouches of Sweet Harmony
Pythagorean Cosmology and Renaissance Poetics
Foreword by Michael Mack

470 pages
ISBN: 978-1-62138-037-5 (paperback)

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THE NOTION OF A HARMONIOUS UNIVERSE was taught by Pythagoras as early as the sixth century bc, and remained a basic premise in Western philosophy, science, and art almost to our own day. In Touches of Sweet Harmony, S. K. Heninger first recounts the legendary life of Pythagoras, describes his school at Croton, and discusses the materials from which the Renaissance drew its information about Pythagorean doctrine. The second section of the book reconstructs the many facets of this doctrine, and the final section shows its influence on Renaissance poetics. Individual chapters treat the assumption that the poet is a maker acting in likeness of the creating godhead, that metaphor depends upon correspondences between various levels of creation, and that the poem serves as a microcosm in literary form.

The idea of cosmos, expressed as universal harmony—or as a tetrad—was prominent in the Renaissance period and strongly conditioned its aesthetics. Therefore, the author expresses his conviction that unless we accept the viability of a divinely- ordered universe, as did the sixteenth-century poet, we shall misinterpret much of the best writing in our language and much of the meaning of Elizabethan verse will be lost.

Professor Heninger’s magisterial work introduces the reader not only to Pythagoras but to a host of other classical, medieval, and Renaissance figures as well—from Plato and Aristotle through St. Augustine and Macrobius down to Sidney and Spenser.

About the Author

S. K. HENINGER, Jr. was University Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. He is the author of The Cosmographical Glass: Renaissance Diagrams of the Universe, The Handbook of Renaissance Meteorology, and Sidney and Spenser: The Poet as Maker.