Early Modern Exchanges


Poetry and Usury: Symbolic Economies in Shakespeare’s Sonnets

31 October 2018, 5:00 pm–7:00 pm

The Moneychanger and His Wife by Quentin Matsys.

Event Information

Open to



Early Modern Exchanges


Room 307
Foster Court
Malet Place
United Kingdom

This talk builds on Professor Bates' last book, On Not Defending Poetry (2017), in which an “economic” reading of Sidney’s Defence of Poesy suggests that, despite appearances to the contrary, Sidney was not in fact wedded to defending poetry on grounds of its profitability, after all, since this otherwise respectable, humanist argument is shown to reveal potentially unacceptable complicities with a capitalist ethos of accumulation and growth.   Professor Bates' new project, still very much in its early stages, aims to explore ways in which Shakespeare goes on to probe Sidney’s alternatively aesthetic, “profitless” model of art by focusing on the question of usury in the Sonnets.   Using this focus to intertwine three different forms of production – making money, making men, and making art – Shakespeare develops ideas that remain largely intuited in Sidney’s text, to show that, in its relation to capital, poesis necessarily involves both complicity and critique.

Catherine Bates is Research Professor in the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance at the University of Warwick. She works on English Renaissance poetry and has published five monographs on the subject: most recently, 'On Not Defending Poetry: Defence and Indefensibility in Sidney's Defence of Poesy(2017, Oxford University Press), and Masculinity and the Hunt: Wyatt to Spenser (Oxford University Press, 2013), winner of the British Academy Rose Mary Crawshay Prize, 2015. She is also editor of a number of edited collections, most recently A Companion to Renaissance Poetry (Wiley Blackwell, 2018).   She has held a Solmsen Research Fellowship at the Institute for Research in the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin, Madison (2014/15) and a Mellon Fellowship at the Huntington (2017/18). For academic year 2018/19 she is Visiting Research Fellow at the IES.

This event is organised by UCL Early Modern Exchanges, which is part of the Institute of Advanced Studies.