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Spenser and Sidney at the Renaissance Society of America Annual Meeting

March 27-29th, 2014
New York City, New York

We wish to thank the Renaissance Society of America for permitting us to reproduce the following abstracts. The complete program for the 2014 meeting may be accessed here.

Colin’s Clout: Spenser’s Shepheardes Calender in the Late Elizabethan Literary
Organizer: Rachel E. Hile (Indiana University-Purdue University) 
Chair: Yulia Ryzhik (Princeton University)

Hunting Love and Catching Cupid in Spenser’s “March” and Nashe’s Choise of Valentines
Rachel E. Hile
Indiana University–Purdue University

In his own satirical poetry, Edmund Spenser criticized indirectly, requiring readers to interpret clues carefully to access satirical meanings. In A Choise of Valentines, Thomas Nashe imitates the methods of Spenserian satire to create a bawdy poem that mocks Spenserian idealism while nevertheless endorsing the dichotomies of city and country that are staples of pastoral satire. Nashe playfully uses Spenser’s “March” eclogue from The Shepheardes Calender as an intertext for his own poem, mocking the ideas about love put forth by Spenser and Spenser’s own source texts. The poem is outrageous and funny, especially if we consider the possibility that Nashe satirizes both Frances Walsingham and Queen Elizabeth with his bawdry, but in the contrast between country and city, Nashe implicitly accepts the moral superiority of the country. Reminiscent of Colin Clout in the “neighbor towne,” Nashe’s Tomalin learns to hate the distortion that the urban space enforces on pastoral love.

“Down on Your Knees”: Literary-Evaluative Rosalinds in Spenser and Shakespeare
Paul J. Hecht
Purdue University North Central

This paper argues that Shakespeare’s Rosalind (in As You Like It [ca. 1600]) is connected to Spenser’s character of the same name in the Shepheardes Calender (1579), and in particular that she carries from one text to the other a fervid atmosphere of literary evaluation. It is because Rosalind rejects his “Shepheards devise” that Colin Clout ends the “Januarye” eclogue by breaking his pipes and casting himself upon the ground. Likewise, Shakespeare’s Rosalind is willing to condemn both individual poems and various “devises” of shepherds and others. In both works, this internal evaluation is not straightforward: such a condemnation is not necessarily intended to be echoed by a reader (Colin after all is the character who is a stand-in for Spenser himself). I argue that Shakespeare learned this complex dynamic of internal evaluation from Spenser, rather than more obvious dramatic sources, or from Lodge’s prose romance Rosalynde (1590).

Retelling Colin Clout
Samuel Fallon
Yale University

Spenser’s recurring pastoral persona, Colin Clout, often appears in scenes of narrative retelling: in The Shepheardes Calender’s “Aprill” eclogue, Hobbinol recites his lay for Eliza; in Colin Clouts Come Home Againe, he repeats for Hobbinol a poem he had performed with the Shepheard of the Ocean (Raleigh); in book 6 of The Faerie Queene, Spenser’s readers access Colin’s ecstatic singing on Mount Acidale only through the narrator’s description of it. This paper considers another of Colin’s appearances, but one that Spenser himself did not write: Colin’s return in the lyric anthology Englands Helicon (1600). For Nicholas Ling, its editor, Colin served to ground a poetic community, addressing other poets and being addressed by them. Englands Helicon, I argue, shows how crucial Colin became to the Elizabethan understanding of Spenser and his legacy, and to the articulation of the imagined literary community that Spenser, as a self-fashioned laureate, helped to produce. 


Sidney and Spenser Studies in Tribute to T. P. Roche I: Symbolism and Allegory in Spenser
Organizer: Judith H. Anderson (Indiana University)
Chair: Jean R. Brink (Henry E. Huntington Library)
Chair: Jeff Dolven (Princeton University)

Reading Spenser’s Una
Judith H. Anderson
Indiana University

Although Una, the Red Cross Knight’s loyal lady in the first book of Spenser’s Faerie Queene, seldom wins a popularity contest among the female figures of this romance epic, with one conspicuous exception, recent readings have turned a surprisingly relentless spotlight on her deficiencies, her faults, and her failings. History, psychoanalysis, biography, and Ovidian allusion have variously come into play in these highly provocative, perceptive, and occasionally comic renderings. Of course the central issue here is precisely the reading of Una’s figure, which is also the art of reading Spenser’s first book, the one in which the poet lays the foundation for our interpreting his allegorical edifice. No small matter this. Reading The Faerie Queene demands conceptualization and history; it has never been just about close reading. I intend to review recent treatments and examine passages in book 1 that might afford a key to Spenser’s art.

“Flower Power” in the Complaints and Garden of Adonis
Heather James
University of Southern California

Spenser’s poetry is famously lush with poetic images and effects that seem to drift away from the organizational designs of allegory as a method for crafting and reading poetry. This facet of Spenser’s poetry is no accident: a certain tension between sensual experience (aesthetics) and allegory (moral use) seems central to the practice and purpose of Spenser’s poetry. This tension is nowhere more evident than in the lavish descriptions of flowers in the complaint poems and the gardens of The Faerie Queene; and it is nowhere more vexed than in the Garden of Adonis, which is guaranteed to inspire and stymie readers of both types, the more allegorical and the more sensual. I propose to approach the question of moral, historical, and political allegory in the complaints and the Garden of Adonis through the images that seem most likely to resist allegory: their lushly sensual flowers.

Allegorizing Eliza: Disabling Female Regiment in The Faerie Queene
Richard McCabe
Merton College, University of Oxford

This paper argues that Spenser engineers dissonance between the supposedly compatible states of eros and amicitia in the third and fourth books of The Faerie Queene to problematize the relationship between female regiment and imperial ambition. Focusing on the relationship between Timias and Belphoebe, I analyze the allegorical association between the development of Timias’s “love” for Belphoebe and the promotion or frustration of Ralegh’s imperial ambitions in Ireland and the New World. Ideally, to love Belphoebe is to enjoy the grace of Gloriana and attain that glory that is the subject of the poem’s “generall intention.” Timias, as the etymology of his name suggests, is a lover of honor. As squire to Prince Arthur he espouses the Arthurian ideal of conquest and expansion that delivers magnificence. Yet the pursuit of Belphoebe entails abandonment of the quest for Gloriana and constitutes one of the greatest self-contradictions of the narrative. 

“Pour’d Out in Loosenesse on the Grassie Grounde,” or, How Do I know I’m Reading Allegory?
William Allan Oram
Smith College

In The Faerie Queene 1.7, Duessa seduces the Redcrosse Knight beneath a grove of trees. The allegorically dense episode suggests among other readings the young knight’s giving in to his passions as well as the unwary Protestant seduced by Catholic glamor. Redcrosse’s “fall” is followed by imprisonment and despair. At the other end of the poem (6.3) when Calidore comes across Serena and Calepine recumbent beneath a tree, the second passage obviously recalls the first. Yet this moment involves no fall, and its allegorical dimension differs radically. I will use these passages to consider how the poem asks us to read its allegory, and in particular, first, how the two passages imply different ways of reading, and, second, what those different reading strategies suggest about the evolving nature of allegory in Spenser’s epic. 


Sidney and Spenser Studies in Tribute to T. P. Roche II: Spenser and Manuscripts
Organizer: Jean R. Brink
Chair: Robert Smith (John Carroll University)

“The Supplication of the Blood” (1598): A Neglected Spenser Manuscript?
Hiram Morgan
University College Cork

This paper discusses the manuscript entitled “The Supplication of the Blood of the English” (BL Additional MS, 34,313). Relating it to other known Spenser manuscripts, this paper raises questions about why it has not been studied more intensively. If it is a Spenser holograph, then it becomes a key not only to Spenser’s last days in Ireland but also to his whole writing career. 

Wrestling with A Vewe of the Presente State of Ireland
Elizabeth Fowler
University of Virginia

Work proceeds on editing the Vewe of the Presente State of Ireland in connection with The Oxford Edition of the Collected Works of Edmund Spenser, for which I’m a General Editor. I’ll discuss various strategies—financial, technological, and editorial—for the management of lots of transcriptions of lots of manuscripts and introduce, as well, my evolving sense of the relation of the text to Spenser’s poetry, especially with regard to topography, early anthropology, antiquarianism, ecology, law, military strategy, and the form of the dialogue. 

Problems with the Bibliographical History of Spenser’s View
Jean R. Brink
Henry E. Huntington Library

The publication history of Spenser’s View begins with an entry in the Stationers’ Register dated 14 April 1598 where the manuscript is entered as belonging to Matthew Lownes. Although Lownes obtained a license to print the View, he never printed it. The View was not printed for more than a generation; it was printed in 1633 by the Irish antiquary James Ware. Matthew and Humphrey Lownes did print and distribute the first folio of the Faerie Queene in 1609 and three additional folios in 1611, 1613, and 1617, but these volumes did not include the View. Now that William Scott’s contemporary allusion to Spenser as the author of the View removes all doubt that Spenser wrote this humanist dialogue, how do we explain the hiatus between the 1598 entry of the View to Matthew Lownes and its belated publication in 1633? 


Sidney and Spenser Studies in Tribute to T. P. Roche III: Spenser’s Poetics and Its Influence
Organizer: Jean R. Brink
Chair: Lauren Silberman (CUNY, Baruch College)

Reconstructing Emotion in The Faerie Queene
Cora V. Fox
Arizona State University

Spenser’s encyclopedic poem is both a rich historical document in the cultural history of emotion and a purposeful poetic exploration of two key Protestant emotions: love and despair. While it is in dialogue with humoralism, classical, and Neostoicism, as well as various literary traditions that are focused on affective communication and the passions, such as Petrarchism, the poem is insistently and purposefully eclectic in its evocations of emotional states. The House of Alma, for example, is the home of the ladies Praysdesire and Shamefastness, allegorical figures who seem to have been conjured by the demonic emotional states of the book’s heroes. They depend more on their particular allegorical context than any essential sense of what these affective states might mean. Drawing on contemporary theoretical and social scientific approaches to the study of feeling, I will reassess how Spenser’s poem represents emotions, suggesting their conspicuously intertextual and discursive constructions.

Spenser and the Intertextual Sublime: Marlowe, Jonson, Shakespeare 
Patrick G. Cheney
Pennsylvania State University 

This paper rethinks Spenser’s influence via “the preeminent modern aesthetic category,” the sublime. While literary histories locate the sublime in Milton, new research finds evidence of a late-sixteenth-century presence, prompted by the printing of Longinus’s On Sublimity in seven Continental editions. An aesthetic of the sublime eschews the ethical paradigm of patriotic English nationalism leading to eternity on which much recent criticism depends. Instead, the sublime aesthetic fictionalizes literary greatness. For Longinus, the sublime is an emotional principle of authorship, written in the grand style, in imitation of great literary works, and in service of fame. The sublime author centers his fiction in “the interval between earth and heaven.” A work representing the enigma of this interval produces either terror or rapture. The paper argues that Spenser pioneers an intertextual aesthetic of the sublime, and that Marlowe, Jonson, and Shakespeare produce “great” works of literature by responding to Spenser.

Inseminating Angels in Spenser and Milton
Thomas Herron
East Carolina University

 Tom Roche’s work has focused on the topics of eroticism, allegory, and larger structural conceits (including numerological patterns) in Renaissance literature, especially Spenser. This paper will focus on these three interrelated subjects in its investigation of the allegorical significance, or meaning, of two important angels in two separate epics: Guyon’s Angel in book 2 of The Faerie Queene and Milton’s angel Raphael in book 5 of Paradise Lost. Both angels can be read as cupid-like protectors and instigators of protagonists in both works (Guyon, Adam, and Eve). Both also have allegorical significance pertaining to the planting of gardens, which are literally figured as central structural motifs in both works. By studying the erotic agricultural signification of the angels, we better understand how divinely inspired poetic creativity and genius is celebrated by the authors, as each strives to shape new worlds of poetry out of chaos.

Spenser’s Scripts for the Pageant of Modern Poetry
Jon A. Quitslund
George Washington University

In my book Spenser’s Supreme Fiction, I pivot away from the book’s historicist concerns to ask, “How can we best apprehend the perennial Spenser, summoning him out of his own mythopoeia to live in another time?” In answering that question, I invoke the hyper-enigmatic figure of Florimell, who appears and disappears, in both authentic and simulacral forms, throughout books 3 and 4 of The Faerie Queene, pursued by many would-be lovers. (Tom Roche, in his seminal Kindly Flame, is the godfather of Florimell’s scholarly papparazzi in my generation and beyond.) Gilles Deleuze’s “Plato and the Simulacrum,” sets out to “overthrow Platonism,” a project similar to Spenser’s “overgoing” of Ariosto—evident most of all in his transformation of Angelica into Florimell and her simulacrum. These ideas offer a foundation for discussion of the poetics of modern poets such as W. S. Merwin and James Merrill. 


Sidney and Spenser Studies in Tribute to T. P. Roche IV: Roundtable on New Directions
Organizer: Jean R. Brink
Organizer: Jean R. Brink (Henry E. Huntington Library)
Chair: Jean R. Brink (Henry E. Huntington Library)
Chair: Anne Margaret Daniel (The New School) 

Discussant: Roland Greene (Stanford University) 
Discussant: Roger J. P. Kuin (York University)  
Discussant: J.B. Lethbridge (University of Tübingen) 
Discussant: David Lee Miller (University of South Carolina)
Discussant: Anne Lake Prescott (Barnard College)  Discussant: Thomas P. Roche (John Carroll University) 
Discussant: Donald Stump (St. Louis University) 
Discussant: Julia M. Walker (SUNY, Geneseo) 

T. P. Roche, in The Kindly Flame, memorably comments that “reading narratives allegorically does not differ … from reading them symbolically, and we have no way of distinguishing a proper reading of The Faerie Queene from a proper reading of The Scarlet Letter, or The Golden Bowl, or Finnegan’s Wake.” Though Roche does not overtly state that he is taking on C. S. Lewis; of course, he is. Lewis says that allegory begins with an immaterial passion or fact and invents visibilia while symbolism … attempts to “see the archetype in the copy.” Each of the seven speakers will briefly address issues, such as this one cited from The Kindly Flame, and then comment on current and future directions in the study of Sir Philip Sidney and Edmund Spenser.


Sidney, Spenser, Shakespeare, Kyd: New Work in Renaissance Studies
Organizer: John N. Wall (North Carolina State University) 
Chair: John N. Wall (North Carolina State University) 

Pamela and the Poetry of Sleep in Philip Sidney’s Arcadia
Margaret Simon
North Carolina State University

This paper connects the diverse communicative practices represented in Philip Sidney’s unrevised Arcadia with Renaissance conceptions of the body, correlating the romance’s shifts in textual making with affective states. In book 3, Pamela and Musidorus carve poems on the bark of trees, compose and sing poetry for one another, and Pamela becomes the subject of a prose blazon. But even as the Arcadia imagines textual polyphony and various mediums of expression, it dramatizes their subordination to convention-bound lyric approaches, all focused on Pamela’s sleeping body. As she is lulled to sleep, her voice, her carving, her consciousness, and Musidorus’s own lively lyric experiments become overtaken by conventional blazon. By using the lady’s cognitive absence to correlate mediocre poetry and immoderate desires, this scene unexpectedly contradicts the very Petrarchan affinity between female absence and male poetic innovation that Sidney himself comes to reinforce in Astrophil and Stella.

Isis Church: Elisa’s Church
Kathryn Walls
Victoria University of Wellington

Book 1 of Spenser’s The Faerie Queene is generally read as an encomium of the Elizabethan Church—as represented Una. I would argue that she represents, rather, the “body of Christ” that transcends national institutions. In The Faerie Queene 5.7, however, Spenser does at last treat the visible Church in England. Britomart’s dream in the Temple of Isis is numinous in the extreme. It is at the same time (focusing as it does on the idol of a pagan goddess) provocative in terms of Reformation ideals. In both respects, it bears a paradoxical relationship to the Elizabethan Church in its relationship with the state. This, however, is what it signifies. My paper will draw on contemporary debates concerning, first, vestments and, second, the supremacy.


Spenser and Narratology  I
Organizer: Melissa Sanchez (University of Pennsylvania) 
Chair: Melissa Sanchez (University of Pennsylvania)  

Spenser and Narratology: On Some Local Points of View in The Faerie Queene
J.B. Lethbridge
University of Tübingen

Narratological study of The Faerie Queene draws attention to occasions of adjustment in local or small-scale point of view (focalization, narrative level), which can shift suddenly, generating accumulations of subtlety in presentation of situation, action, and exposition. For instance: When Arthur wounds him, it is said that Pyrochles was “Three times more furious, and more puissaunt, \ Vnmindfull of his wound, of his fate ignoraunt” (2.8.34). The first three can be noticed by Pyrochles and Arthur without special powers of observation; the point of view would seem to be Arthur’s, but the fourth is inaccessible to participants. Again, when Atin cries to Archimago for help, he adds a moral sentence: “Weake hands, but counsell is most strong in age” (2.6.48): but to whom is it addressed? And is it Atin who really speaks it? Narratology can help address these questions and provoke others.

Genre and Narratorial Irony in Book 6 of The Faerie Queene
Caralyn Bialo
Manhattanville College

“Genre and Narratorial Irony” uses narratology to examine the relationship between narratorial discourse and generic multiplicity of book 6 of the Faerie Queene. As the story of book 6 moves through epic romance, pastoral, and Heliodoran romance, Spenser employs different generic topoi to mark the narrator’s voice. At times, these topoi align with the primary genre in which the story is unfolding; at others, the narrator seems to exist in a separate, extradiegetical genre, at odds with both preceding narratorial voices and events in the narrative present. Book 6, therefore, has not one but multiple, disjointed narratorial voices. Through the framework of narratology, I argue that this (mis)alignment of genres and narratorial voices creates dialogism among the poem’s diegetical levels. This dialogism, in turn, produces space for irony and playfulness that both destabilizes the book’s visions of courtesy and encourages us to rethink Spenser as the “sage and serious poet.”

Pity, Politics, and Imaginative Autonomy in The Faerie Queene, Books 5 and 6
Richard Z. Lee
University of California, Berkeley

This paper will examine the key role played by pity in the interwoven narrative formed by books 5 and 6 of The Faerie Queene. Spenser’s shifting attitudes toward this passion at first appear wholly irreconcilable: in book 5, protagonists’ merciful responses to the suffering of enemies interfere with the exercise of true justice, whereas in book 6, reflexive compassion for figures in distress is a chivalric imperative fundamental to the dictates of courtesy. While further consideration might suggest that Spenser is less interested in the timeless moral status of pity—or even of justice and courtesy—than in its contingent political efficacy, this paper will ultimately argue that the books’ ambiguities and paradoxes are best understood as experiments in aesthetic autonomy, with fictionalized representations pursued to their “non-purposive” imaginative ends. In this way, The Faerie Queene undermines its own ethico-rhetorical framework that would harmoniously “fashion” its reader’s moral virtues.

Daphnaïda, Complaint, and Elegy
Alan Niles
University of Pennsylvania

Spenser’s Daphnaïda is the first published poem in English to identify itself as an “elegy” in what has become the predominant modern sense of an expression of mourning for a dead person. This overdetermined import from classical and French literature helps define the distance that recent critics have recognized separates reader from speaker as historical: indeed, Spenser’s poem explicitly represents Alcyon’s responses to loss as alternately pre-Christian and pre-Reformed. The poem’s implicit comparison of Christian and profane grief places pressure on the use of complaint discourse as a medium for moral instruction and the comprehension of history. Daphnaïda’s publication history both as a companion to Complaints and as an addendum to Fowre Hymnes illustrates the potential of its reflections on the poetic form for loss as a means for realizing distinct Protestant identity. 


Spenser and Narratology II
Organizer: Melissa Sanchez (University of Pennsylvania) 
Chair: Melissa Sanchez (University of Pennsylvania)

My Story, My Words: Analeptic Self-Representation in The Faerie Queene
Jonathan Sircy
Charleston Southern University

Early in The Faerie Queene’s third book, the Red Crosse Knight (misidentified as “Guyon”) wonders “what inquest / Made” Britomart “dissemble her disguised kind” (–7). Britomart uses her narrative to continue dissembling, disguising her real relationship to Artegall. The narrator counters with Britomart’s actual back story, one that includes both Britomart telling her nurse Glauce (upon invitation) about her love wound and Glauce misrepresenting Britomart’s story to Merlin (who then tells the pair what really happened). Within two cantos, we have the same events analeptically represented no less than four times. This rich example underscores the ubiquity and diversity of the 1590 Faerie Queene’s analeptic personal narratives. The stories, often told at the behest of some new acquaintance, give characters histories and, more importantly, affective relationships to those histories. I argue that Spenser uses these stories to negotiate the space between allegorical meaning, self-knowledge, and rhetorical performance.

Ambivalent Spectacle in The Faerie Queene, Book 3
Jessica Tabak
Brown University

English Renaissance debates on the benefits and dangers of imagistic clarity in fiction have deeply influenced critical readings of how spectacle supplements narrative in Spenser’s Faerie Queene; the poem’s visual descriptions are often read as moments of either didactic or deceptive clarity that maintain the difference between virtue and vice even as the poem dramatizes man’s difficulties discerning this difference. Focusing on the oft-discussed spectacle of Amoret’s tortured body in book 3, this paper will suggest that imagistic ambivalence within the poem poses a more fundamental threat to virtue than does deceptive imagistic clarity. While most scholarship maintains that the poetic spectacle of Amoret’s torture crystallizes the virtue of marital chastity uniting the book’s narrative threads, the scene’s evocation of Christian mystical iconography both challenges attempts to read a clear message within this image and destabilizes the status of marital chastity as virtue.

Spenser’s Narrative and the Perils of Ovidian Wit
Elizabeth J. Bellamy
University of Tennessee

I aim to contribute to ongoing studies of Ovid’s influence on Spenserian narrative. Specifically, I investigate Spenser’s remarkable sensitivity to what much recent Ovid scholarship has focused on—i.e., Ovid’s ingenium, the Roman’s poet’s tendency toward self-parody, obvious but tonally difficult to assess. This self-deprecatory ingenium is an Oviditan topos that so often challenges readers to penetrate beneath the layers of wit to see if they can locate a bedrock of seriousness. Focusing on selected passages from Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Tristia, and from Spenser’s The Faerie Queene and Colin Clouts Come Home Againe, I pose an overarching question: why and where does Spenser choose to borrow the Ovidian tone of ingenium, and to what effect, either consciously or unconsciously, do these borrowings have on his own narrative aims?

Narrative as Image in The Faerie Queene
Evan Thomas
Ohio State University

This paper studies the ekphrastic tapestries of The Faerie Queene as narrative imagetext, with findings relevant to the study of Spenser and religion. Narratologists tend to approach The Faerie Queene for the narrative inconsistencies of book 3. As frustrating as Florimel’s paradoxical flight can be, the tapestries of Joyeous and Busyrane provide a more rewarding challenge concerning the nature of embedded narrative. In turn, narratology requires a more historicized approach to Spenser’s image-text. Early modern English church documents against idolatry define narrative image by the inclusion of juxtaposition or gesture: as such, narrative transforms idols into edifying images. Consequently, the tapestries that Britomart sees in book 3 demonstrates narrative as image, and further, interweave temptation and idolatry. Therefore, this contextualized treatment of narrative image-text suggests Spenser had an integrated view of holiness and chastity.


New Technologies in Medieval and Renaissance Studies I: Text Collation, Translation, and Analysis
Organizers: Laura Estill, Texas A&M University
Diane Katherine Jakacki, Bucknell University
Michael Ullyot, University of Calgary
Chair: Raymond G. Siemens, University of Victoria

Digital Approaches to Spenser’s Translations from Du Bellay’s Songe (Text Analysis)
Andrew Keener
Northwestern University

This paper presents my ongoing collaboration with digital scholarship librarian Josh Honn in order to visualize early modern instances of literary translation. With software including Voyant, Juxta, and CATMA, as well as a custom-made HTML5/CSS color-coded collation apparatus, I am pursuing a method of early modern text analysis that can help scholars to better assess instances of translation and revision through deeply tagged texts. The first of three texts I study here is Joachim DuBellay’s Songe, sixteen visionary sonnets in French (1558). The second consists of Edmund Spenser’s English translations of eleven of these sonnets in blank verse, which first appeared in print in 1569. The third text, Spenser’s revised version of these same sonnets, saw print in 1591. The survival of revised translations in early modern print presents an opportunity to investigate both digitally and visually how translation, adaptation, and revision function together in Spenser’s oeuvre and beyond.

PARAGON: Intelligent Collation and Difference Detection
David Lee Miller
University of South Carolina
Dhaval Salvi
University of South Carolina

PARAGON is a software system capable of intelligent collation and difference detection among materials from multiple repositories, digitized according to varying standards with a range of methods and equipment. Funded by an NEH Digital Humanities Implementation grant, this project is a collaboration between the general editors of the Collected Works of Edmund Spenser, under contract to Oxford University Press, and two research centers at the University of South Carolina: the Center for Digital Humanities and the Computer Vision Lab. Project co-PI David Miller will be joined by CSE Doctoral candidate Dhaval Salvi to discuss thetechnical challenges presented by this project and report on our success in meeting them. In spring of 2014 the project will be near the end of its development phase, so we expect to be able to present a clear picture of the software’s capabilities.   


Organizer: Ann E. Moyer (University of Pennsylvania)
Chair: Rachel Eisendrath (Barnard College)  

“Upon A Bed of Roses She Was Layd”: The Alchemy of Sexual Pleasure in the Bowre of Bliss
Lisa Jennings
Florida State University

Critics of Spenser’s Faerie Queene have been vexed by Guyon’s violent destruction of Acrasia’s Bower of Bliss. The scholarly consensus seems to be that the bower and its representation of disordered pleasure are metaphors for early modern concerns regarding the power of mimetic poetry and an unchanneled sexuality. No doubt Acrasia epitomizes this unregulated sexuality. Poetic mimesis notwithstanding, I would like to offer a rereading of Acrasia’s sexual power and locate it within the context of alchemy. I fi nd that the descriptions of Acrasia’s sexual prowess in book 2, canto 12 is a failed attempt to portray her as a false alchemist. Instead, her sexual power complicates the standard narrative of attaining the philosopher’s stone. In fact, her sexual power is closely correlated to the alchemical process. Ultimately, what Acrasia and the destruction of her bower represent is the embodiment of Spenser’s failure to ameliorate the power of the poet.

Elemental Love: The Four Heroine’s of Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, Book 3
Catherine Gimelli Martin
University of Memphis

The Faerie Queene, book 3, is strongly influenced by Bernardus Silvestris’s Cosmographia, which declares that the poet mediates between nature and Urania by “ceaselessly … inscribing forms upon all created things and thereby ensuring that they will conform to the influence of the heavens” (44). Most Spenserians locate this influence in the Garden of Adonis, but a similarly “elemental” allegory is performed by its four heroines. Just as Spenser’s Sir Guyon progressively passes through the elemental tetrad of earth, water, air, and fi re (Martin 2009), Britomart first encounters sexual or “earthy” love (Venus), then “watery” love (Florimell), airy love (Amoret), and finally fiery or chaste love (Belphoebe, herself a type of Britomart). This final or “heavenly” love has both virginal and marital aspects attained as Florimell’s Petrarchan love refines Venus, Amoret’s Platonic love perfects Florimell, and Belphoebe’s Diana-like dedication to chastity is transformed in Britomart’s chaste Christian marriage.

Plato’s Phaedrus in Spenser’s Shepheardes CalenderMaye’s Emblematic Development
Kenneth Borris
McGill University

Whereas Spenser’s Calender (1579) has been commonly supposed to refer to Platonic doctrines so loosely and vaguely that the poet had little if any significant interest in Plato in the 1570s, it evinces learned interests in Platonism that profoundly impact the poem throughout. The standard locus for assessing Spenser’s early Platonic affinities has been the Calender’s October eclogue, and Maye has been in this respect ignored. But Maye’s original illustration reconfigures a famous Phaedran fable according to particular iconographical precedents, and thus significantly interacts with the eclogue’s verbal component as in contemporary emblem books such as Alciato’s. This discovery further affects various symbolic motifs that extend throughout the Calender, and so the text as a whole has a previously unnoticed Platonic contextualization with momentous consequences for our understanding of the Calender’s role as a seminal poem of its time, and of Spenser’s early poetics.


Classical Receptions in Early Modern England III
Sponsor: English Literature, RSA Discipline Group
Organizer and Chair: Robert S. Miola, Loyola University Maryland

Spenser, Donne, and the Epithalamic Tradition
Yulia Ryzhik
Princeton University

Taking its origin in ancient Greece, with Sappho and Anacreon, the epithalamion was a popular genre among classical poets, including Pindar, Statius, Ausonius, Claudian, and—the most influential in the Renaissance—Theocritus and Catullus. The genre’s conventions were codified in Scaliger’s Poetices and, in England, in Puttenham’s The Art of English Poesy. Spenser’s Epithalamion on his own wedding, published with the Amoretti (1595), established the genre’s importance in England, but proved so definitive that all subsequent epithalamia could be viewed as artistic failures and sycophantic bids for patronage. This paper examines Spenser’s unusual appropriation of the genre and the attempts of several later epithalamia, particularly those of Donne, to parody Spenser’s monumental poem, but also to imitate it and recapture some of Spenser’s cachet in the service of two royally sponsored weddings, of Princess Elizabeth to the Elector Palatine and of the Earl of Somerset to Frances Howard, Lady Essex.


Near-death Experience in the Renaissance
Organizers: Giulio Pertile, Princeton University; Emily Vasiliauskas, Princeton University
Chair: Giulio Pertile, Princeton University

Edmund Spenser, Thomas Lodge, and the Literary Tropes of Resurrection
Kasey Evans
Northwestern University

In the 1590s, two texts entitled “Prosopopoeia” appeared in London: Edmund Spenser’s 1591 Prosopopoia. Or, Mother Hubberds Tale; and Thomas Lodge’s 1596 Prosopopoeia: containing the teares of the holy, blessed, and sanctified Marie, the Mother of God. Penned by a Protestant Reformer and a recusant Catholic, respectively, these texts use apostrophe and prospopoeia to explore the contested terrain of resurrection during the Reformation. Spenser’s Mother Hubberd offers her tale to soothe a patient suffering from the plague, but therein, prosopopoeia’s “impersonations” are cruelly and mortally fraudulent. Lodge’s text uses apostrophe and prosopopoeia to summon mourners for Christ, framing these tropes as aspirations to participate in, inaugurate, and imitate the Christian Resurrection. This paper explores the ambivalent presentation of the tropes of apostrophe and prosopopoeia in both texts, where they appear as both aspirational and impossible experiments in the resurrection of the dead during a time of religious contestation.


Transgressing Boundaries: Comparative Epic and Drama IV: Roundtable
Sponsor: Italian Literature, RSA Discipline Group<
Organizer: Walter Stephens, Johns Hopkins University
Chair: Ayesha Ramachandran, Yale University

Discussants: Walter Cohen, Cornell University;
Andrew S. Escobedo, Ohio University;
Roland Greene, Stanford University;
Jacques Lezra, New York University;
Melissa Sanchez, University of Pennsylvania

Since the 1990s, scholarship has tended to separate discussions of Renaissance drama from Renaissance poetry, particularly the long poem (epic), and has bifurcated the field at large into “dramatic” and “non-dramatic” literature. But recent comparative work across national and generic boundaries suggests that there may be greater connections, overlaps and productive conflicts between the two genres than traditional genre-specific criticism has imagined. This roundtable, the culmination of a series of panels that showcase such new comparative work, will reappraise the frontiers of genre between drama and epic and propose new directions for future research. Questions for discussion include: how have the literary histories of Renaissance drama and epic been imagined, and what might new histories of these interlinked genres look like? Do the two genres interact differently in different national contexts? What can we learn about generic hybridity and experimentation through comparative literary study. 


Understanding Nostalgia in Sixteenth-Century England
Organizer: Kristine Johanson, University of Amsterdam
Chair: András Kiséry, CUNY, The City College of New York

Nostalgia and Imitation in The Shepheardes Calender
Melanie Mohn
Princeton University

When Sidney lists possible precedents for English poetry in his Defense of Poesy, he calls The Shepheardes Calender “worthy the reading” despite Spenser’s “old rustic language.” Beyond its archaism, the poem conjures the past in laments of lost love, fleeting adolescence, and death. This paper explores nostalgia and imitation in The Shepheardes Calender, with particular attention to pastoral elegy. Mourning Tityrus, the poem advertises its indebtedness to Chaucer; likewise, Colin’s “November” lament for Dido, an imitation of Marot, rehearses a seemingly premature nostalgia for Elizabeth, again grounded in poetic precedent. I suggest that these scenes invite the text’s further imitation by contemporaries—from Sidney’s endorsement of its exemplary status, to its reappearance in verse miscellanies, in derivative poems, and even in Spenser’s own return to pastoral. The nostalgia of The Shepheardes Calender becomes a literary performance, even a discursive affliction, in the service of the consolidation of English vernacular lyric.


The Rhetorical Negotiation of Kinship in Early Modern England
Sponsor: Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, University of Toronto (CRRS)
Organizer: Roderick Hugh McKeown, University of Toronto
Chair: Katherine R. Larson, University of Toronto

“Vertuous Lore and Gentle Noriture”: Home and School in Early Modern England
Judith Owens
University of Manitoba

The frequency with which schoolmasters presented themselves as fathers to their pupils highlights widely held assumptions about the symmetry between school and family—and thus about the ethos of the early modern family. But this often rehearsed analogy obscures the extent to which relations between parents and schoolmasters grew strained, even fractious, when masterly authority collided with parental affection, for example, or when religious leanings proved intractable, or when civic-mindedness conflicted with self-interest. I draw on educational treatises by the eminent schoolmaster Richard Mulcaster and on Merchant Taylors’ court records to suggest that the moral and emotional contours of family life emerge with unique clarity when home and school meet in contention. I then turn (briefly) to Spenser and Ralegh, to consider literary moments whose power and reach—extended now to family, school, and state—sharpen into relief when viewed in this context.


Representing Origins I
Sponsor: Yale University Renaissance Studies
Organizer: Brian Walsh, Yale University
Chair: Christopher Crosbie, North Carolina State University

Resounding Origins: Material Rupture and Restorative Metrics in Spenser’s The Faerie Queene
J. K. Barret
University of Texas at Austin

When Arthur encounters Briton moniments in Eumnestes’s library, he is “burning … with fervent fi re” (2.9.60) to read the book. In introducing this fi ctional historical text, Spenser suggestively dangles his “countreys auncestry” before both his character and his reader, raising the hope that Briton moniments might fill in some of British history’s notorious, contested gaps. The chronicle, however, turns out to be truncated. In this paper, I focus on the material presentation of Briton moniments. I argue that even though Arthur’s text contains a break that is not graphically reproduced in The Faerie Queene, the dissonance between meter and meaning communicates material rupture. Spenser’s puns and self-conscious metrics illustrate how prosody mimics the disruptive force of a broken text even as individual lines almost render silence tangible; Spenser’s poiesis recuperates physical loss by communicating material experience through metrics, and highlights poetry’s power to redress history’s missing links.

Poetry without Origins in Sidney’s Old Arcadia
Stephanie Elsky
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Who composed the eclogues in Sidney’s Old Arcadia? The answer seems straightforward enough: Sidney or, in the realm of the romance’s fiction, the Arcadian shepherds. But Sidney introduces a third possibility, an anonymous transcriber who polishes and refines the shepherds’ “unthought-on song[s].” This paper explores Sidney’s peculiar triangulation of authorship, arguing that it creates a liminal space between singular and communal authority, and between the performance of poetry and its subsequent codification. Drawing upon sixteenth-century political and legal models of authority—models that pervade the Old Arcadia’s content as well as its form—Sidney constructs a poetics without origins that challenges the period narrative by which Renaissance authorship is said to rely upon the recognition of loss and the desire for recovery. 


Representing Origins II
Sponsor: Yale University Renaissance Studies
Organizer: Brian Walsh, Yale University
Chair: Christopher Warley, University of Toronto 

Una’s Line: Original Sin and the Boundaries of the Spenserian Self
Catherine Nicholson
Yale University

Although her name identifies her as the most radically individual, the most fully self-possessed, of Spenser’s allegorical entities, Una enters The Faerie Queene in remarkably scattered fashion, trailed by a lamb led on a line and a dwarf loaded with baggage. This unwieldy entourage fi gures the dispersal of Una’s moral being: herself “so pure an innocent, as that same lamb,” she is nonetheless bound “by … lynage” to the sins of fallen humanity, no more able to shed the burden of her parents’ guilt than the dwarf can shrug off his wearisome load. Distracted by the mysterious inwardness of Una’s “hidden care,” critics have looked to Spenser’s poem for allegories of emergent modern subjectivity, of selves fashioned out of and against an undifferentiated collectivity. But original sin constitutes the self in just the opposite fashion, through an inheritance that is inalienable precisely because it belongs to no one in particular.



Elizabethan Poetics and Potential Worlds
Debapriya Sarkar
Rutgers University

Elizabethan poetry continually celebrated the generative power of possibility, what Sidney’s Defence of Poesie terms the “may be and the should be.” In order to imagine possible and ideal worlds into being, Sidney posits the paradoxical claim that poetry “never lieth” because the poet “nothing affirmeth.” But in The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spenser constructs a poetics of possibility that rejects ideals—“what should be”—and privileges the best possible world, one that “might best be.” Spenser’s fictional world provides ontological form to what Giorgio Agamben terms “the possibility of privation.” In this formulation, actuality is not the teleological fulfillment or destruction of potentiality, but a realization and exhaustion of its impotentiality. Drawing on narrative romance, travel literature, and speculative knowledge, Spenser explores an ever-expanding world, never fully knowable. His allegorical world making reveals poetry’s unique capacity to expand the limits of the thinkable and push readers toward the impossible.

Dangerous Cartographies: Threats, Death, and The Faerie Queene’s Missing Maps
Chris Barrett
Louisiana State University

Spenser sends the knights of The Faerie Queene tripping over the elusive terrain of Faeryland “Withouten compasse, or withouten card” ( in the immediate wake of England’s cartographic revolution, when maps in various shapes and formats were becoming unprecedentedly ubiquitous, affordable, and commercially lucrative. The map’s domestic and international propagandistic and strategic potential swiftly made it an integral part of the Elizabethan state’s workings—and a matter of grave concern for Spenser, whose Faerie Queene refl ects a deep anxiety about the unsettlingly invasive and politically suppressive power of cartography. In this paper, I outline The Faerie Queene’s sustained meditation on the stakes (moral, political, aesthetic) of representing the earth cartographically, when representation in the form of the map demands the suppression or elision of the embodied, surveilled, and vulnerable bodies within those spaces. What kind of poetics, I ask, emerges from the insufficiency—or even impossibility—of a just cartography?



  • Olivia Wood 8 years, 1 month ago

    Hello - I am an Oxford undergraduate writing a dissertation on focalisation in Spenser and I am dying to get my hands on the paper cited above by Lethbridge “Spenser and Narratology: On Some Local Points of View in The Faerie Queene”. Extensive googling and solo-ing have turned nothing up. Does anyone know where I can find it? Best, Olivia

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Cite as:

"Spenser and Sidney at the Renaissance Society of America Annual Meeting," Spenser Review 44.1.26 (Spring-Summer 2014). Accessed April 19th, 2024.
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