Graham, Jamey E. “Character in The Faerie Queene: Spenser’s Phenomenology of Morals.” Modern Philology, vol. 115, no. 1, August 2017, pp. 31-52. The University of Chicago Press.
This essay offers a new account of character in Spenser’s Faerie Queene, a poem long understood to muddle the distinction between allegory and proto-novelistic, romanesque characterization. At the heart of this problem is the question, “what is the relation between a character’s fictional personhood—his or her thoughts, feelings, and unique perspective, such as we come to know them—and what he or she ‘means’ within The Faerie Queene’s moral-allegorical framework?” The answers proposed by recent Spenser criticism have taken the form of a struggle for dominance: the characters, it is reasoned, compete with the narrator to resist or control what they are supposed to mean. I argue against this position on the grounds that it equates allegory too reductively with what someone or something means, when the real issue is how meaning comes to be perceived in persons and things. The Faerie Queene’s characters and narrator alike engage in the perception of allegorical meaning and also in the perception of all sorts of non-allegorical impressions: it is the difference between these modes of perceiving, not the differing content of this or that individual’s perception, that shapes the boundary between allegory and romanesque narrative in the poem. Through close reading of the characters’ and narrator’s processes of perceiving and judging in Books I-II, I endeavor to describe these modes as well as the timing of their deployment, a method I call a “phenomenological” approach to allegory. I contend that the phenomenology of moral allegory in The Faerie Queene is indebted to Renaissance Platonism. To return to the question I initially posed, I argue that there are multiple observable relations between a character’s fictional personhood and his or her assigned virtue or vice; I study at length the example of Guyon, for whom, I claim, that relation in Book II is one of dialectical modification over time. As many critics have noted, Guyon is not temperate; however, his character traits are gradually changed by his need to make the idea of temperance appear to the reader, just as his character traits progressively change the appearance of temperance. [JG]
Kim, Shanelle E. “‘Armed to Point’: Sansfoy and Imagining the Orient in Book I of Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene.” Comitatus: A Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, vol. 48, 2017, pp. 117-131. Project Muse.
The violent battle between Redcrosse and Sansfoy in Book I of Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (1590) captures England’s complicated relationship with the Eastern Other during its Renaissance—one based not on England’s inherent sense of superiority over the Orient, but rather on fears of inferiority in comparison to its wealth and power. The depiction of Eastern characters in Spenser’s texts reflects increased interest in the East during the sixteenth century, which saw increased contact with other nations due to advances in global trade and travel. As a sixteenth-century text imagining a national identity in the face of increased contact with other peoples, The Faerie Queene’s portrayal of Sansfoy provides insight into how Renaissance England imagined the Eastern Other—a picture that would eventually solidify into English Orientalism. [SK]
Rhodes, William. “Why Colin Clout Came Back: English Reformation Literature and Edmund Spenser’s Late Work.” ELH, vol. 84, no. 3, Fall 2017, pp. 503-527. Project Muse.
In two poems of 1595-6, Colin Clouts Come Home Againe and Book VI of The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spenser returns to the pastoral mode and the pastoral persona of Colin Clout for the first time since The Shepheardes Calender (1579). This late return has long been a mystery for Spenser scholars. Yet a solution can be found in the source of Colin Clout’s name in John Skelton’s Collyn Clout, which influenced a number of mid-Tudor reformist poets. Spenser’s experience as a colonial planter and theorist in Ireland made the tradition of agrarian satire that Skelton helped create newly appealing to Spenser as he addressed in his late pastoral poems the interaction among land, labor, and writing in the process of cultural reform. [WR]
Ryzhik, Yulia. “Complaint and Satire in Spenser and Donne: Limits of Poetic Justice.” English Literary Renaissance, vol. 47, no. 1, Winter 2017, pp. 110-135. The University of Chicago Press.
Challenging the familiar dichotomy that associates complaint with Spenser and satire with Donne, this essay demonstrates the workings of satire in Book V of The Faerie Queene and of complaint and allegory in Donne’s Satires, especially in the figures of water representing poetry and political authority. What emerges from this crossover is an unusual convergence in the two poets’ views of truth and justice. The analysis carries significant implications for the relation between satire and allegory in Renaissance poetics and for the political efficacy of these modes. [YR]
Towery, Grace. “The Death of Strafford: An Unknown Poem and a Rival Attribution.” Notes and Queries, gjx090, 25 July 2017. Oxford University Press.
In the Rare Book Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill, a 1617 print edition of Edmund Spenser’s works contains two poems on the death of Thomas Wentworth, the first Earl of Strafford (1593-1641), inscribed upon the flyleaves. The first, which offers a nuanced assessment of Strafford’s character and the role he played in his own downfall, is anonymous and previously unknown. The second, a more straightforward eulogy of Strafford and his legacy, is a copy of a poem usually attributed to Sir John Denham, but in this copy, it bears an alternate attribution to Sir William Davenant. This article investigates not only the text and authorship of the poems, but also the significance of their location. While it is possible that the scribe only casually transcribed them into the Spenser collection, I offer in this essay a connection between the complex political stance taken by the first poem and ideas circulating among Spenserian print circles in the early seventeenth century. Such poets were often caught between a desire to support and to criticize the crown, a tension that is deeply resonant within the first poem on Strafford and perhaps influenced the scribe’s decision to copy them in a book of Spenser’s works. The echo of Spenserian ideas found in the poem gives its location a certain level of civil-war-era significance regardless of the scribe’s intentions. [GT]