Brogan, Boyd. “‘Some Other Kind of Lore’: Satire and Self-Governance in Spenserian Poetry.” Studies in Philology, vol. 114, no. 1, winter 2017, pp. 67-96. Project Muse.
This article investigates William Browne’s use of a poem by the medieval poet Thomas Hoccleve as a tribute to his imprisoned fellow poet George Wither. It argues that Hoccleve’s self-referential poem-sequence The Series plays a wider role in Browne’s poem and Wither’s responses to it than has been realized. Recent scholarship has emphasized the unity of these “Spenserian” poets and explored their innovative uses of the pastoral genre to express public, political concerns. But Browne’s Hoccleve quotation reveals the important role that satire, and its traditional interests in self-governance, played in their work, strengthening recent arguments for these poems’ influence on Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy. The Spenserians used dialogic forms not simply to demonstrate consensus but to explore their differences, and rather than the poetic and political alliance that has been assumed, Browne’s ambiguous tribute to Wither may have created a lasting rift. But it also had a more productive legacy in shaping Wither’s turn to the psalms. Browne’s Hocclevian eclogue helps to uncover the political roots of this project and of the wider prophetic identity that Wither came to assume. [BB]
Duffy, Timothy. “Triangulating Rome: Du Bellay, Spenser, and the Fantasy of Perspective.” Early Modern Literary Studies, vol. 19, no. 1, 2016, pp. 1–25. Humanities Source.
Rebecca Zorach in her recent book The Passionate Triangle has argued for the philosophical and artistic centrality of the triangle in Renaissance thought and praxis. Building on Zorach’s intervention to offer a Renaissance literary theory of the triangle, this essay offers a reading of European Petrarchism that is centered around the linked and mutually informing phenomena of Roman speculative engagement and triangulation. Triangulation, usually though of as primarily involved in artistic representation, navigation, Platonic philosophy, and geometric thought, became, in the Renaissance, a tool to explore the theological and historical questions of both Renaissance Humanism and the Reformation. It became a method by which Renaissance thinkers and poets, Protestant and Catholic, could envision and represent the Roman past and related issues of time, space, and eternity. This essay argues that Du Bellay and Spenser, working across religious, linguistic, and national boundaries, create virtual lyric spaces in their poems, that, like the virtual spaces of two dimensional Renaissance art, create spiritual and spatial depth through a triangulated compositional practice. [TD]
Nicosia, Marissa. “Reading Spenser in 1648: Prophecy and History in Samuel Sheppard’s Faerie Leveller.” Modern Philology, vol. 114, no. 2, Nov. 2016, pp. 286-309. The University of Chicago Press.
On 27 July 1648 George Thomason collected, The Faerie Leveller: or, King Charles his Leveller descried. This brief pamphlet includes an edited version of the “Egalitarian Giant” episode from Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene Book V and prefatory materials that map Spenser’s allegory onto the political crisises of the English revolution. The preface claims that the works of the “Prince of English Poets Edmund Spenser” have come to fruition in the English civil wars: Or Spenser’s “verse then propheticall are now become historicall in our days.” Moreover, this preface was most likely composed by the notorious poet-journalist Samuel Sheppard. In this article I discuss The Faerie Leveller in the context of topical allegory and journalist conventions. I delve into the specifics of my attribution of this pamphlet to Samuel Sheppard and address his contemporaneous involvement with the Royalist newsbook Mercurius Elencticus, which ran an advertisement for The Faerie Leveller. In particular, I consider the material form of The Faerie Leveller to unravel its complex treatment of political futurity. Sheppard’s edited version of Spenser’s romance not only isolates an allegorically rich episode wherein Artegall the Knight of Justice debates with a Giant carrying a large set of scales, but it also represents the dispute between Artegall and the Giant in the style of an animadversion pamphlet to liken their confrontation to pamphlet warfare, and it regularizes the spelling and capitalization of “Ballance,” the key word on which their deliberation hinges, in order to critique Leveller theories of equality as simplistic and unjust. I argue that these formal and typographical attributes enliven the political stakes of Spenser’s original and heighten the disjunction between Spenser’s prophetic allegory and Sheppard’s Royalist reinterpretation. [MN]
Wareh, Patricia. “Honorable Action Upstaged by Theatrical Wordplay in The Faerie Queene 2.4 and Much Ado about Nothing.” Modern Philology, vol. 114, no. 2, Nov. 2016, pp. 264-285. The University of Chicago Press.
In this article, I argue that Spenser’s Phedon episode is a more important source for Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing than has previously been recognized. By setting Shakespeare’s comedy alongside a tragic event in Spenser’s poem (in which the suspicion of adultery leads to murder rather than an apparently happy ending, as it does in Shakespeare), I show how Shakespeare and Spenser deviate from other versions of the tale, notably Ariosto’s Orlando furioso (1532), in their emphasis on courteous theatricality over heroic action. Both texts, I argue, reveal the costs of maintaining the appearance of masculine honor in a culture obsessed with impersonation, especially the danger that substance will be replaced with verbal self-presentation. The movement from action to words contained in Spenser’s narrative leaves important traces in Shakespeare’s play as it too registers the loss of authenticity that afflicts its characters. [PW]
Articles from the most recent issue of Spenser Studies can be found here (reviewed in this issue):