Allegory, Space and the Material World in the Writings of Edmund Spenser

Allegory, Space and the Material World in the Writings of Edmund Spenser

Christopher Burlinson
Volume: 17
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 274
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt81wd6
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  • Book Info
    Allegory, Space and the Material World in the Writings of Edmund Spenser
    Book Description:

    This book provides a radical reassessment of Spenserian allegory, in particular of ‘The Faerie Queene’, in the light of contemporary historical and theoretical interests in space and material culture. It explores the ambiguous and fluctuating attention to materiality, objects, and substance in the poetics of ‘The Faerie Queene’, and discusses the way that Spenser's creation of allegorical meaning makes use of this materiality, and transforms it. It suggests further that a critical engagement with materiality [which has been so important to the recent study of early modern drama] must come, in the case of allegorical narrative, through a study of narrative and physical space, and in this context it goes on to provide a reading of the spatial dimensions of the poem - quests and battles, forests, castles and hovels - and the spatial characteristics of Spenser's other writings. The book reaffirms the need to place Spenser in his historical contexts - philosophical and scientific, military and architectural - in early modern England, Ireland and Europe, but also provides a critical reassessment of this literary historicism. Dr CHRISTOPHER BURLINSON is a Research Fellow in English at Emmanuel College, Cambridge.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-444-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. ABBREVIATIONS AND CONVENTIONS
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. PREFACE
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  7. Part I: Space and Materiality in the Realm of Allegorical Romance

    • Chapter 1 ACCOUNTING FOR THE MATERIAL IN SPENSER’S ALLEGORY
      (pp. 3-21)

      AT THE START of the Proem to Book 5 of The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spenser compares the ‘state of present time’, as he has done previously in the poem, to ‘the image of the antique world’ (V.Proem.1.1–2). The abounding of sin among men, as we are to learn in the first canto of this book, has led Astræa, daughter of Jupiter and figure of justice, to abandon the world. In the Proem, Spenser – who cannot himself do such a thing (‘loath this state of life so tickle, | And loue of things so vaine to cast away’, VII.viii.1.6–...

    • Chapter 2 SPACE, PLACE, AND LOCATION: INSIDE AND OUTSIDE THE POEM
      (pp. 22-44)

      IN L. SPRAGUE DE CAMP and Fletcher Pratt’s story, ‘The Mathematics of Magic’, a pair of time-travelling scientist-adventurers by the names of Harold Shea and Reed Chalmers make use of a fantastical machine to transport themselves into The Faerie Queene. The poem, according to Chalmers, provides a ‘brilliant and interesting world, and one in which I personally might have some place’, and although the two men acknowledge the dangers of participating in the later parts of the poem, ‘where Queen Gloriana’s knights are having a harder and harder time, as though Spenser were growing discouraged, or the narrative for some...

  8. Part II: Architectural Space and the Status of the Object in The Faerie Queene

    • Chapter 3 GALLERIES: SPACE, MYTHOGRAPHY, AND THE OBJECT
      (pp. 47-72)

      ON 29 APRIL 1609, Thomas Howard, third Viscount Bindon, then extending his house at Bindon Abbey with a long gallery, wrote a short letter to Robert Cecil.¹ Galleries, or long galleries, are rooms commonly associated with English architecture of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries,² even if many of the larger houses and palaces built in England from at least the fourteenth century did have covered corridors (used primarily as means of communication, for example between houses and their chapels).³ Bindon’s letter to Cecil contained a request for a gift that he could place in his gallery:

      a request to be...

    • Chapter 4 ROYAL CHAMBERS: SPACE AND PRESENCE
      (pp. 73-94)

      AS SIMON ADAMS warns his readers in an article on the court in The Spenser Encyclopedia, ‘neither Spenser’s experience of, nor his attitude towards, the court is easy to establish’.¹ It is not just that it is difficult to be certain of what personal knowledge Spenser had of the court:² Adams also reminds us of recent critical opinion that ‘an overly literal interpretation of allusions to persons and events in his work’ is dangerous.³ On the other hand, several episodes in The Faerie Queene take place inside discernibly courtly locations. Redcrosse and Duessa encounter Lucifera inside the chambers of the...

  9. Part III: Beleaguered Spaces

    • Chapter 5 ‘GOODLY WORKEMANSHIP’: FORTIFICATIONS AND THE BODY
      (pp. 97-127)

      THE CASTLE, a building with specific importance in military and architectural history, also frequently appears in literary works like The Faerie Queene as an allegorical or symbolic image.¹ Studies of The Faerie Queene have tended to disregard, or indeed to deny, the influence of specific military practices on the poem. Alastair Fowler argues that Spenser is less interested in physical combat than a different type of heroism, ‘a spiritual struggle’, and that he ‘seldom poeticises detailed particulars of modern war to the extent that Milton does’.² Michael West’s analysis proves the influence of some of these particulars, but suggests that...

    • Chapter 6 DEFENDED SPACES, FAST SPACES, PROPER SPACES
      (pp. 128-148)

      IN MY PREVIOUS chapter I investigated the material (and ideological) implications of the construction and destruction of fortified buildings at the end of the sixteenth century, and also looked at some projects for building such fortifications. In doing so, I situated The Faerie Queene in a context that was both European and specifically Irish, and also teased out the implications of the process by which this small defended space could be made to stand allegorically for the body, and the self. I now want to examine the relation between the production of these very particular, individual spaces, and the ideas...

    • Chapter 7 THE STONES OF KILCOLMAN: SPENSERIAN BIOGRAPHY, THE RUIN, AND THE MATERIAL FRAGMENT
      (pp. 149-164)

      IN A SELF-CONFESSEDLY whimsical footnote in their book, Ireland: Its Scenery, Character, &c. (1841), beneath a passage describing Spenser’s former residence at Kilcolman Castle and the lands around it, Mr and Mrs Samuel Carter Hall write that they were once riding in a carriage between Dunbrody and Wexford, in which they ‘had been [. . .] speculating on the possibility of some happy chance enabling us to enrich the world by finding these “lost books” in some sequestered nook’. These lost books, they explain, are the concluding six books of The Faerie Queene, believed to have been destroyed in the...

  10. Part IV: The Physical and Allegorized Landscape

    • Chapter 8 DEFORESTATION AND THE SPENSERIAN WOOD
      (pp. 167-194)

      THIS CHAPTER concentrates for the most part upon the forests of Ireland in the 1580s and 1590s, but it begins five thousand miles and three hundred years away, on the island of Mauritius at the end of the nineteenth century. In 1883, Sir John Pope Hennessy arrived as the new governor of Mauritius, towards the end of a long career in the Colonial Service that had seen him sent to outposts in the Caribbean, Africa and East Asia. Several of these postings had ended in a degree of disgrace and confusion; Pope Hennessy’s desire to reform colonial laws and his...

    • Chapter 9 THE HOUSES OF THE POOR
      (pp. 195-219)

      NO SOONER does Florimell appear at the beginning of the third book of The Faerie Queene than she is chased out of sight again by a ‘griesly Foster’, and then immediately by Prince Arthur and Sir Guyon, who set off in pursuit behind her, and behind the man attacking her. When she manages at last to evade her pursuers and to stop to rest, she finds herself on a hillside, overlooking a valley, where she spots a thin column of smoke rising through the trees. Taking this as a ‘chearefull signe [. . .] | That in the same did...

  11. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 220-222)

    This book began with a set of contentions about two approaches to The Faerie Queene, to Spenserian poetics, and to Renaissance literature, and an attempt to bring these two approaches together. Material culture and space have recently taken an increasingly prominent place in criticism of the early modern period, and work on them has contributed to a reconsideration of the place of history, and the idea of the real, in literary study. This interest in material culture has been invigorated by a growing attention – partly a result of changes in literary historicist practice but also the consequence of an...

  12. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 223-246)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 247-256)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 257-259)