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Plato Baptized

Plato Baptized: Towards the Interpretation of Spenser's Mimetic Fictions

Elizabeth Bieman
Copyright Date: 1988
Pages: 325
  • Book Info
    Plato Baptized
    Book Description:

    Bieman argues that from experiences of personal knowing the writer, his fictive protagonists, the reader and the interpreter participate in the production of further experiences throughout which other meanings may, evanescently, be glimpsed.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7851-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. CHAPTER ONE ‘To discouer ... the general intention’: A Methodological Introduction
    (pp. 3-24)

    The asking of questions to which there are no conceptual answers goes back in Western literary experience at least to Plato’s Socrates, and to the roughly contemporary book of Job. It issued in early Christian thought in Paul’s and Augustine’s complex rhetoric and paradoxical language. By the time of Spenser the tradition that had incorporated and transmitted Platonism, appropriate biblical thinking, and Neoplatonic revisions of both, was offering to poets a readily available figurative and paradigmatic language system. In it they embodied and ordered their most probing poetic impulses. Signs of strain and scepticism, as mimetic and recapitulative of deepest...

  5. CHAPTER TWO ‘For wisedome is most riches’: Plato and His Socrates
    (pp. 25-54)

    Spenser, with other writers who were remaking tradition in the manner of their times, was being totally consistent with the Platonic roots of his tradition. Each reconstructed and transformed what came to hand. Each found his own balances between fidelity to received traditions, as he had come or had chosen to understand his past, and the freshness and immediacy of the languages he deployed in ‘overgoing’¹ those pasts. Although each had the opportunity and most had the predisposition to see successive periods of the past as synchronically present to the imagination, and although the tendency throughout the centuries had been...

  6. CHAPTER THREE ‘Each vnto himselfe’: Systematizers, Seekers, and Seers
    (pp. 55-87)

    A discontinuous and roughly chronological scanning of developments between Plato and Plotinus, this chapter gathers details towards the reconstruction of paradigms, and more important, towards observing the shifting dynamic of language. Spenser was an interpreter of the tradition; so are we as we evolve our own understandings. Intellectual assent to putative doctrine is not required of us; openness in questioning, and willingness to move imaginatively in others’ traces will serve more fruitfully.¹ The chapter slows for only a few aspects of the thinking of a few figures. I ask that the reader keep in mind my conviction of the value...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR ‘A temple faire and auncient’: The Plotinian Paradigm
    (pp. 88-104)

    The salient model of the thinking we now call Neoplatonic – whether we refer to the ancient pagan philosophers we now approach or to the Christian syncretists of the Renaissance who anchored their metaphoric thinking in Ficino’s translations of the ancient texts – is to be sought in Plotinus.

    Plotinus understood himself as a ‘Platonist,’ just as through Plato’s respectful presentations of Socratic method, of Pythagorean wisdom, and of the pluralistic monism of Parmenides it appears that he understood himself, variously, as a Socratic, a Pythagorean, and perhaps a Parmenidean. While thinking of himself as a Platonist, Plotinus freely assimilated anything he...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE ‘All that moueth, doth mutation loue’: Metamorphoses and Baptism
    (pp. 105-133)

    With this chapter and the next the study turns from its focus on pertinent ancient interpreters and texts towards its praxis, the critical reinterpretation of Spenser’s texts. The accretive nature of the Platonic tradition has already been demonstrated, as has the hermeneutic dynamic by which it retains, assimilates, and reshapes its transmitted materials. Spenser, when we reach him, we shall see as participant in the ongoing process of understanding the cosmos and the human role within it through successive linguistic representations of questioning and response.

    The figures dealt with in the chapter would merit, in another context and upon other...

  9. CHAPTER SIX ‘Through hardy enterprise’: Approaching Spenser
    (pp. 134-151)

    Sceptical attitudes towards hardened doctrines of any colouration show themselves everywhere in the thinking of the Renaissance. Many interpreters find in Spenser’s narrative fractures and slippery diction evidence of admirable intellectual honesty; some locate in the same elements their doubt concerning the steadfastness of Spenser’s religious faith.¹ This book rejoices with its contemporaries in the hard honesty with which Spenser at times faces the void known to questioners of any age: no poetry of doctrinal statement could evoke the experiences of meaning evoked by Spenser’s sceptical and equivocal texts.²

    But since the language of Renaissance questioning proceeds in codes carried...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN ‘Beginning then below’: Questioning in Love
    (pp. 152-178)

    Spenser presents himself consistently as the poet of love – even when his topoi are more apparently aesthetic, social and political, or cosmological.¹ The field signified by the various literary manifestations of the word ‘love’ comprehends all of human experience for the thinker in the composite tradition we have been tracing.² The reading that has issued the foregoing chapters has multiplied the particulars in a field of awareness that opened for me early on under Spenser’s direction.³ The dynamism and the shape of that field, a whirling circle, and the comprehensiveness of the conception of love it manifests, do not change...

  11. CHAPTER EIGHT ‘Twixt them both’: Questions Arising in Society
    (pp. 179-211)

    Adopting for heuristic purposes a schema based on the traditional conception of the human soul as tripartite and on the systematic social and metaphysical thinking associated with it, this practical interpretation of Spenser’s texts has begun with poetry on love. This chapter, dealing with the Platonic level of the middle soul, might almost seem irrelevant in a book stemming from, and returning to, the metaphysical and mystical potentialities in the Cantos, where the brute and inescapable quiddity of mutability in thephysis,the body of this world, transgresses the limits apparently separating time from eternity, thus bringing into imaginative play...

  12. CHAPTER NINE ‘Upon the Pillours of Eternity’: The Fusion of Horizons
    (pp. 212-243)

    When we as critical readers pose our questions of Spenser’s texts – seeking ‘By certaine signes here set in sundry place’ (FQ2, Proem, 4) – we seek authorial indicators to significance. We find, often, not merely what our prior experiences of this poet have prompted us to expect: as we find the horizon of our expectation reached, we find also that subsequent expectations must be adjusted in the face of the puzzling language in which the ‘signes’ have been offered. We are forced back to revise the grounds of the initial questioning, and to begin afresh. So it continues, as we...

  13. CHAPTER TEN ‘Speeches few’: An Afterword
    (pp. 244-246)

    Praxis, in the end, drives us back into contemplation of what we have been about. This has been a book of critical praxis, but the recursive consciousness of theory rightly informs our practice in the modern academies. With Gadamer and Ricoeur we recognize the circularity of our own hermeneuses, with Jauss the effect upon our insights of the placing of horizons of expectation. What then is the justification of the quest upon which we have been engaged?

    The history of this book offers an insight: it is far from being the one I projected many years ago when I embarked...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 247-292)
  15. Glossary
    (pp. 293-298)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 299-310)
  17. Index
    (pp. 311-325)