Campana, Joseph. “Introduction: Staging Allegory.” SEL Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 55.2 (2015): 327-339.
An overview of the cluster of essays with observations on the state of allegory and attention to the tensions between various ways of approaching the intersections of allegory and theater in Renaissance England.
Dawson, Brent. “Making Sense of the World: Allegory, Globalization, and The Faerie Queene.” New Literary History 46.1 (2015): 165-186.
This article makes a case for the value of literary form to the study of globalization. The literary critical movement of global studies has tended to show how literature represents or participates in transnational relations. I argue for the importance of attending to how literature both shapes ideas of worldhood and brings out a paradox within them: that any attempt to make a world will also be a disruptive act that prevents the unity worldhood presumes. I contend that allegory is a literary mode that particularly calls attention to this paradox. Complicating genealogical accounts that bracket allegory as a medieval worldview off from modern paradigms of representation, I look to Spenser’s Faerie Queene, written at a liminal moment when transnational capitalism is just emerging, as a revealing case of allegory’s relevance to globalization. Examining two prominent examples of the Spenserian allegory of the world as a harmonious chain, I argue that the trope is not as peaceful as it might at first appear, bringing out an element of destabilization present in all worldmaking. As such, Spenser’s poem reflects on the violence and disruption inherent in trying to bring the world together into a single allegorical system. While Spenser has often been read as a poet deeply nostalgic for what he sees as a fading medieval worldview, I argue, in examining the Cave of Mammon canto, that Spenser shows how medieval allegory continues to inform modern paradigms of global commerce.
MacDonald, Julia. “Keeping Time in Spenser and Shakespeare: The Temporality of Spenserian Stanza and Shakespearean Blank Verse.” Ben Jonson Journal 22.1 (May 2015): 83-100.
Though both Edmund Spenser and William Shakespeare were “obsessed with time,” there is a well-established consensus that Spenser is slow and dilatory while Shakespeare is urgent and compressed. In this article, I argue from the perspective of reader-response theory that verse form actively conducts the reader’s experience of time. Going beyond an Aristotelian mimesis of temporality, verse form is constitutive of the reader’s experience of time, in keeping with Sidney’s assertion that the poet is not limited by nature but “freely [ranges] only in the zodiac of his own wit.” Through close reading of representative passages, I will analyze the contribution of the formal elements of both Spenserian stanza characterized by epic simile to the creation of the characteristically dilatory imaginary of The Faerie Queene and Shakespearean blank verse, characterized by “the repetitive, cumulative, and metaphorical quality of the poetry,” to the creation of the characteristically urgent Shakespearean imaginary. Though critical attention is drawn more frequently to the more obvious, because more conscious, elements of plot and figurative language, the elevation to consciousness of the often almost subconscious operations of verse form on the reader enables the realization that the architecture of a vision of temporality completed through elements of plot and figurative language is first laid out in verse form, which recapitulates on a formal level the poet’s sense of time, conveying the distinctly sensuous experiences of time mediated by Spenserian stanza and Shakespearean blank verse.
Milburn, Michael. “Coleridge on Spenser: ‘Imaginative Fancy’ in The Faerie Queene.” Explorations in Renaissance Culture 39.2 (Winter 2013): 1-21.
This essay expands upon Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s analysis of Spenser’s “imaginative fancy.” It begins with a brief overview of Coleridge’s thought in order to explain what “imagination” and “fancy” mean in this context and how they relate to the distinction between symbolism and allegory. It then explores passages of FQ in which fancy is “active” under the conditions of imagination. Coleridge’s formula can account for the unique aesthetic power of some of Spenser’s most striking speaking pictures, including the melting of Snowy Florimell, Error’s vomit, the unveiling of Duessa, Despaire’s suicide attempt, and the staining of Ruddymane’s hands. The paper concludes by considering the basis for Coleridge’s remarkable suggestion that Talus in FQ V represents Spenser’s most imaginative achievement.
Wadoski, Andrew. “Spenser, Harvey, and the Strange Poetics of The Shepheardes Calender.” College Literature: A Journal of Critical Literary Studies 42.3 (2015): 420-441.
This essay examines those aspects of The Shepheardes Calender that its commentator, E. K., describes as “strange,” arguing that these features reflect interpretive practices cultivated in the coterie surrounding Edmund Spenser’s friend and mentor, Gabriel Harvey at Cambridge in the 1570s. Constituting a significant reorientation of the humanist critical project as exemplified by contemporary theorists such as Sidney and Puttenham, these interpretive practices ground a poetics in which meaning is not found in synthesizing or subsuming all forms of knowledge under a common system, but rather in contemplating formal variety itself. The Shepheardes Calender notably rejects the commonplace humanist notion that poems exist apart from the world as rationalizing or limiting correctives to the uncertainties of material experience. Rather, the book locates its poems’ affective and conceptual force in their capacity to operate as adaptive responses to, and means of discovery within, a world of persistent, and persistently strange singularities.