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Worldmaking Spenser

Worldmaking Spenser: Explorations in the Early Modern Age

Patrick Cheney
Lauren Silberman
Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Worldmaking Spenser
    Book Description:

    Worldmaking Spenserreexamines the role of Spenser's work in English history and highlights the richness and complexity of his understanding of place. The volume centers on the idea that complex and allusive literary works such asThe Faerie Queenemust be read in the context of the cultural, literary, political, economic, and ideological forces at play in the highly allegorical poem. The authors define Spenser as the maker of poetic worlds, of the Elizabethan world, and of the modern world. The essays look at Spenser from three distinct vantage points. The contributors explore his literary origins in classical, medieval, and Renaissance continental writings and his influences on sixteenth-century culture. Spenser also had a great impact on later literary figures, including Lady Mary Wroth and Aemilia Lanyer, two of the seventeenth century's most important writers. The authors address the full range of Spenser's work, both long and short poetry as well as prose. The essays unequivocally demonstrate that Spenser occupies a substantial place in a seminal era in English history and European culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6156-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
    P.C. and L.S.
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    Recent literary criticism has usefully directed our attention to what we have known all along: that works of literature exist in the world, that they respond to social and political forces operant at the time of their writing, that they take part in forming the systems of beliefs upon which people act, individually and collectively, and that those belief systems continue to have an effect long after the time of their initial construction. In keeping with the focus of much recent literary criticism, many Spenser scholars have been undertaking to remind those in Spenser studies, as well as a much...

  5. I. Spenser and the World

    • A Primer of Spenser’s Worldmaking: Alterity in the Bower of Bliss
      (pp. 9-31)
      Roland Greene

      What is a world inThe Faerie Queene?The answers to this question inform nearly everything we experience in Spenser’s epic, not to mention in epic itself. This essay considers how Spenser’s poem participates in one of the constitutive elements of the early modern mentality, namely the realization of multiple worlds, and the expanding evocation of “world” itself.The Faerie Queeneoccurs squarely within an era of developing awareness that the concept “world” no longer names something singular and unitary. Accordingly, emerging disciplines such as philosophy, legal and political theory, and theology, not to mention aesthetics and the theory of...

    • Archimago and Amoret: The Poem and Its Doubles
      (pp. 32-42)
      David Quint

      When Archimago uses his infernal spirits to abuse the senses of first the dreaming, then the awakened Redcrosse in the first two cantos ofThe Faerie Queene,he seems to have read the rest of the poem in advance. The series of tableaux that cross the vision of Redcrosse possess both a parodic and prophetic relationship to the poem’s subsequent narrative. We might see in this relationship evidence to support Josephine Waters Bennett’s thesis that book 1 was written after the originary materials of books 3 and 4. The beginning ofThe Faerie Queenepoints especially to its center and...

  6. II. Spenser and the Continental Other

    • Spenser’s Squire’s Literary History
      (pp. 45-62)
      William J. Kennedy

      In books 3 and 4 of Spenser’sThe Faerie Queenea minor character identified as the Squire of Dames plays a functionally important role as a transitional figure between the poem’s two extant halves. In 3.8.44–3.9.18 he introduces Satyrane, Paridell, and Britomart to Hellenore and Malbecco, and in 4.2.20–31 he introduces Blandamour and Paridell to Cambell, Canacee, Triamond, and Cambina. Chaucerian associations dominate his entrance in 3.7.37 where he is pursued by a giantess named Argante, the twin sister of Ollyphant, a figure derived fromThe Tale of Sir Thopas,and likewise his exit from 4.5.18 after he...

    • The Laurel and the Myrtle: Spenser and Ronsard
      (pp. 63-78)
      Anne Lake Prescott

      It is a scholarly commonplace to say that even as he masked in lowly shepherds’ weeds for the 1579Shepheardes CalenderSpenser was gesturing a laureate Virgilian career. Had Virgil not begun as a pastoral poet? Virgil was not, though, the only poet whose career Spenser would have traced with interest. For sheer worldly glamour at court, or for what seemed such others, he would have known that there was no contemporary writer to equal Pierre de Ronsard (1524–85). As he thought about French writers, Spenser’s heart may have gone out more warmly to Clément Marot, two of whose...

  7. III. Spenser and the English Other

    • Gloriana, Acrasia, and the House of Busirane: Gendered Fictions in The Faerie Queene as Fairy Tale
      (pp. 81-100)
      Mary Ellen Lamb

      Spenser’s use of such highly literary texts as Ariosto’sOrlando forioso,Tasso’sGerusalemme liberata,and Virgil’sAeneidhas been well documented. Scholarship has demonstrated the extent to which many episodes ofThe Faerie Queenerepresent rereadings of these formative texts in ways that make them absolutely central to its meanings. It is easy to forget that the visibility of their determinative presence within Spenser’s work is also enabled by their survival as written texts. Editions of Ariosto, Tasso, and Virgil are easily accessible to twentieth-century readers. By contrast, Spenser’s evident debt to an oral literature of fairy tales, announced in...

    • Women at the Margins in Spenser and Lanyer
      (pp. 101-114)
      Susanne Woods

      Edmund Spenser is generally acknowledged to be the most admired model for poets of his own and the next generation. Even as writers moved to plainer style, they continued to look to the eloquent Elizabethan for inspiration and strategy. Aemilia Lanyer, the Jacobean poet who may well have been the first Englishwoman to think of herself as a professional writer, was no exception. This essay relates one Spenserian device, his use marginal figures to center important ideas, to Lanyer’s effort to center women’s voices and experience.

      A woman publishing was a transgression that many enterpnsmg Renaissance women found ways to...

    • Lady Mary Wroth in the House of Busirane
      (pp. 115-124)
      Jacqueline T. Miller

      The House ofBusirane episode that concludes book 3 ofThe Faerie Queenehas proved to be an enduring locus of interpretive intrigue, inviting a range of critical approaches and resistant to consensus. Spenser’s own decision to revise the ending of the episode—in a way that leaves it ever more unfinished—serves as a mirror of the provisional nature of our attempts to understand it and of its own status in the text.

      Particularly interesting in this regard is the way this episode is rewritten—again and again—in Wroth’sUrania.As several readers have noted, Wroth rescripts the Amoret-Busirane...

    • “Mirrours More Then One”: Edmund Spenser and Female Authority in the Seventeenth Century
      (pp. 125-147)
      Shannon Miller

      InFeminist Milton,Joseph Wittreich provides convincing and thorough support for the influence that John Milton—particularly in his representation of Eve—had on women thinkers and educators in the eighteenth century. Countering a contemporary critical resistance to Milton’s portrait of Adam’s “help meet,” Wittreich argues instead for the authority that many women were able to derive from the gender dynamics withinParadise Lost.His evidence suggests that Milton powerfully influenced eighteenth-century women thinkers and educators, even enabling the development of their thought about gender relationships and women’s rights. Milton, it appears, offered authority to these writers. So too did...

    • Milton’s Cave of Error: A Rewriting of Spenserian Satire
      (pp. 148-155)
      John N. King

      Book 1 ofThe Faerie Queene,or “The Legend of Holiness,” has received little, if any, attention as a model for ecclesiastical satire inParadise Lost.Nevertheless, Satan’s encounter with Sin and Death bears the imprint of Sin’s Spenserian prototype, Error, as a polemical figure for the Church of Rome. Milton styles Sin retrospectively as the ultimate ancestress of Spenserian Error in one of many intertextual allusions that take the shape of proleptic anticipations of allegorical debasement inThe Faerie Queene.¹ Paradise Losttherefore pays homage to a lurid tradition of religious controversy when the monstrous offspring of Sin, sired...

    • “And yet the end was not”: Apocalyptic Deferral and Spenser’s Literary Afterlife
      (pp. 156-174)
      John Watkins

      Throughout his career, Spenser fashioned himself as the Elizabethan laureate par excellence, a second Virgil destined to immortalize his queen as a latter-day Augustus. But as Spenserians have long acknowledged, he approached his laureate task with considerable ambivalence.¹ Whereas other scholars have attributed an anti-Elizabethan undercurrent in his verse to his disagreement with royal policies, I want to explore it as a manifestation of a conflict between his classicism and the apocalypticism he espouses as a writer in the Protestant, Foxean tradition.² Unlike Virgil, Spenser did not claim that the Tudor regime or any other human political order could endure...

  8. IV. Policing Self and Other:: Spenser, the Colonial, and the Criminal

    • Spenser’s Faeryland and “The Curious Genealogy of India”
      (pp. 177-192)
      Elizabeth Jane Bellamy

      I would like to begin with a question: can interpretations ofThe Faerie Queenebenefit from postcolonial perspectives? I am not especially concerned that such a line of inquiry might be judged, by definition, as anachronistic. Although an important recent trend in Spenser studies has, of course, been the ongoing investigation of Spenser’sproto-colonialist role in England’s oppression oflreland, I would also stress the timeliness and appropriateness of placingThe Faerie Queenein a postcolonial context. If by the term “postcolonial” we mean, in its broadest scope, a critique of Empire, then of courseThe Faerie Queeneas a key...

    • Spenser and the Uses of British History
      (pp. 193-203)
      David J. Baker

      To think of Britain as a whole, says J.G.A. Pocock, or to “desire such a synthesis would mean that one had become a ‘British’ nationalist, which I think no one ever has, ever will, or ever should.” Britain is not a unified nation. Its history of disparities and conflict is precisely that of a “synthesis” that never took place, and an identity framed in its terms would be fragmented indeed. In this essay, I mean to consider how an awareness of the ruptured history of Britain and a concomitant impulse towards an overarching nationalism come together in the thought of...

    • “A doubtfull sense of things”: Thievery in The Faerie Queene 6.10 and 6.11
      (pp. 204-216)
      Heather Dubrow

      “So clomb this first grand Thief into God’s Fold” (4.192), Milton writes, thus troping Satan’s transgression as neither deception, seduction, nor disobedience, though he presents it in those terms elsewhere, but rather as robbery. Though the subject of thievery in early modern texts has been neglected by most critics, it frequently recurs at charged moments: Hamlet, for example, calls Claudius “[a] cutpurse of the empire and the rule” (3.4.99), and the embittered Fifth Song of Sidney’sAstrophil and Stellaincludes the accusation, “Yet worst then worst, I say thou art a theefe” (43). Why, then, does Spenser too focus on...

  9. V. Construing Self:: Language and Digestion

    • “Better a Mischief than an Inconvenience”: “The saiyng self” in Spenser’s View; or, How Many Meanings Can Stand on the Head of a Proverb?
      (pp. 219-233)
      Judith H. Anderson

      The phrase “saiyng self” in my title comes from Nicholas Udall’s introduction to Erasmus’sApophthegmesand refers to the individual apophthegm, or, as we would say, to “the saying itself.”¹ To a modern ear Udall’s phrasing also suggests both the self or subject who speaks an apophthegm and the one who is culturally spoken by it. The particular “saiyng self” of Spenser that I intend, “Better a mischiefe then an Inconvenience,” occurs strikingly twice in the first half ofA View of the Present State of Ireland.²

      This saying, whose glossing I deliberately postpone, stands out in a modern setting...

    • The Construction of Inwardness in The Faerie Queene, Book 2
      (pp. 234-243)
      Michael Schoenfeldt

      Very popular (and frequently imitated) in its own day, the Castle of Alma has seemed to most subsequent readers a counterproductive grotesquerie. Critical opinion of this episode has altered little since John Hughes wrote in 1715 that the allegory of the House ofTemperance is “debas’d by a Mixture of too many low Images, asDiet, Concoction, Digestion,and the like; which are presented as persons” (267-68). Underpinning Hughes’s criticism of Spenser’s allegory is a deeply anachronistic notion not only of literary decorum, but also, and more tellingly, of the relationship of body to self. Hughes assumes a realm oflow and...

    • Afterword: The Otherness of Spenser’s Language
      (pp. 244-248)
      David Lee Miller

      We cannot speak of “Spenser and the Other” without invoking Spenser as the other, for our interest in how literary texts of the Renaissance represent their others is precisely what marks the distance between their early and our late modernity. In writingThe Faerie Queene,though, Spenser from the start took up a position marked as “other”: England’s arch-poet, as the title page of the 1611 Folio calls him, was also England’s dark poet, a master of obscurity and hard things. What evidence there is suggests thatThe Faerie Queene,for all its canonical status, was more often admired than...

  10. Works Cited
    (pp. 249-272)
  11. Contributors
    (pp. 273-276)
  12. Index
    (pp. 277-288)