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The Renaissance Society of America
Annual Meeting
March 31st through April 2nd, 2016
Boston, Massachusetts

Political Theologies in Early Modern England I      
Sponsor: Medieval-Renaissance Colloquium at Rutgers University
Organizer: Stephanie Hunt, Rutgers University
Chair: Richard C. McCoy, CUNY, Queens College and The Graduate Center

“‘Obaying natures first beheast’: Natural Law, Rebellion, and the Christian Commonwealth in Spenser’s Mutability Cantos” 
Brian Christopher Lockey
St. John’s University
In spite of his commitment to the Elizabethan Settlement, Edmund Spenser’s conception of natural law seems more consistent with the older Scholastic tradition than the contemporary instinctual definition of natural law favored by the Huguenots. The role assumed by Dame Nature in the “Mutability Cantos” as the overseer of a conflict between two sovereign claims has no analogue within the works of Protestant monarchomachs. Instead, Dame Nature plays the role that Thomas Aquinas and later Franciso de Vitoria imagined for the papal monarchy. In this paper, I show that Spenser’s Faerie Queene displays an unorthodox theological lineage when it comes to thinking about the foundations of legitimate sovereignty and the justification of rebellion against tyranny. Spenser’s “Cantos” ultimately engage with recent Neo-scholastic conceptions of the Christian commonwealth in order to explore the question of how Elizabeth’s successor’s legitimacy would be evaluated, protected or corrected in both Ireland and England itself.


Topicality in Early Modern Verse and Drama  
Sponsor: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (ACMRS)
Organizer: Jean R. Brink, Huntington Library
Chair: Steven W. May, Emory University
Respondent: Leah Marcus, Vanderbilt University

Revisiting Topical Allusions in Spenser’s Shepheardes Calender: Bishop John Aylmer as Spenser’s Morrel in Julye”
Jean R. Brink
Huntington Library
The identification of figures in Spenser’s Shepheardes’s Calender with actual people in recent years has become unfashionable, but no one has even tried to prove that Algrind is NOT an allusion to Edmund Grindal. Once the topicality of Algrind is granted, other possible identifications offer themselves. While recognizing the importance of topicality to understanding the meaning and audience of the Calendar, we need to recognize that the explanation of topical allusions are not all created equal. Some have more weight than others. I argue that the allusion to Morrel as Aylmer, Bishop of London in the Julye eclogue parallels the syllabic reversal of Grindal as Algrind and is important, but that the reference to Lettice in March is titillating but incidental.


Spenser and Donne: Thinking Poets  
Organizer: Yulia Ryzhik, University of New Mexico
Chair: Anne Lake Prescott, Barnard College 

“Writing Strange Characters: Spenser and Donne”
Elizabeth D. Harvey 
University of Toronto
This paper considers the nature of early modern character and its relationship to the passions in Spenser’s Faerie Queene and Donne’s erotic verse. I examine the trope of writing on the beloved’s heart (and by prosthetic extension, the speaker’s engraving his name on the window in “Valediction”) or the interchange of hearts. When Spenser’s Busirane writes in “straunge characters” with Amoret’s blood, “character” designates alphabetic letters and also gestures to the emergent linkage between writing and a signatory identity revealed in graphic marks. Timothy Bright’s 1588 treatise, Charactery: An Art of Short, Swift, and Secret Writing by Character, provides instructive insight into early ideas of character as a coded relationship between symbol and signified, and as a secret writing that bridges the divide between separate subjectivities. I explore depictions of graphic marking as a cryptic language within Donne and Spenser’s poetry and as a metapoetic feature of their signatory styles.


“Marriage and Sacrifice: The Poetics of the Epithalamia”
Ramie Targoff 
Brandeis University
In Spenser’s “Epithalamion,” he invokes two figures from classical antiquity who bore children for Jove. Why Spenser invokes Maia and Alcmene, who lay with Jove against their will, is one question to be explored; another is why Spenser suggests that Jove has also lain with his own bride, Elizabeth. When we consider, however, that these unions produced Hermes and Hercules, the picture becomes clearer: Spenser is focused not on Elizabeth’s consent, but on her bearing an extraordinary heir. This de-emphasis on the erotics of love in favor of the exigency of procreation is the central legacy of Spenser’s poem for Donne’s “Epithalamion Made at Lincoln’s Inn” which dispenses altogether with the bride’s pleasure: she is a “pleasing sacrifice.” My paper will bring the myths of Maia and Alcmene into conversation with Spenser and Donne’s “Epithalamia” in order to reconsider the fate of this genre in Renaissance poetry.


“Spenser and Donne: Narrative Figures”
Yulia Ryzhik 
University of New Mexico
Spenser and Donne are typically viewed in terms of contrasts, such as those between epic and lyric and between allegory and metaphysical conceit. Yet Donne shows a remarkable affinity with Spenser in handling the persistent tension, present in both epic and lyric poetry, between figurative stasis and narrative progress. Donne’s conceits that contain a narrative of their own creation—the twin compasses, the jet ring—recall the allegorical narratives of figuration that produce Spenser’s Malbecco, Amoret, or even Britomart. This paper considers also what happens when such figures approach practical—or, in Spenser’s case, historical—materiality. Despite Donne’s emphasis on the materiality of objects as a source of figurative energy, his conceits tend to remain closed and emblematic, while some of Spenser’s seemingly more abstract allegorical figures, such as Amoret, Duessa, and especially Nature in the Mutability Cantos, are so open-ended as to escape out of allegory and into history.


The Domains of English Literature Before Spenser    
Organizers: Taylor Cowdery, Harvard University; William Mcleod Rhodes, University of Virginia
Chair: Leah Whittington, Harvard University

“The Grave as Aesthetic Space in Late Medieval Lyric”
Helen Cushman 
Harvard University
While we might imagine that the mortality lyrics of the late fifteenth century performed a primarily didactic function, this paper argues that first-person post-mortem lyrics or “corpse poems” of the late Middle Ages gave voice to necessarily speculative and unworldly perspectives. Medieval mortality lyric makes ample use of the foreboding “you”—that is, many of the lyrics are eager to remind the reader that she or he will die—but it appears equally interested in a deceased and therefore of necessity imagined lyric “I.” The grave, it would seem, serves as a highly generative imaginative space for lively lyric personae. This paper suggests that the autonomous lyric persona may have its origins not in the pastoral, as Alpers suggests, but in the tomb. The aesthetic space’s disjunction from the real bears an uncanny resemblance to the separation of the world of the living from the domain of the dead.


“Homely Lines: The Poetics of Childhood in Early Tudor Lyric”
Melanie Mohn 
Princeton University
This paper reconsiders the “domestic” realm of early English lyric against the backdrop of childhood and the home. Beyond the courtly dichotomy of public and private, the trope of Horatian retirement, or nostalgia for one’s homeland, a number of the period’s poems revisit an earlier stage of life. Reflecting Susan Snyder’s distinction between spatial and temporal pastoral, the “domain of lyric” predating Spenser’s Calender acquires a temporal dimension. Most prominently in Skelton’s singsong “Philip Sparrow” and “Speak, Parrot,” Wyatt’s beast fable “My mother’s maids,” and Gascoigne’s “Lullaby” and “Woodmanship,” Tudor poets repeatedly position themselves in a homely space, often among women, by incorporating the scenes, literary resources, and genres of childhood. Reframing “aesthetic space” in terms of time, this paper establishes a pattern of temporal relocation that resembles regression; this structure, also endemic to the pastoral domain, ultimately prompts a reconsideration of the place of lyric in the Spenserian career.


“‘With tender heart, lo, thus to God he sings’: The Lyric ‘I’ in Wyatt’s Penitential Psalms” 
Frederick Bengtsson 
University of Kentucky
This paper will explore the extent to which Thomas Wyatt’s Penitential Psalms function as a space within which Wyatt pushes the potential of the lyric ‘I’ beyond the limits of courtly love poetry and satire. Alternating between translations of David’s first-person laments and Wyatt’s authorial commentary on those laments, the structure of the text is inherently self-reflexive about both devotion and poetry. In particular, the paper will focus on the imagery of ‘voice’ and ‘heart’’—familiar tropes that recur throughout Wyatt’s secular poetry as well—as tropes of specifically poetic devotional interiority. In choosing these poems as its subject, the paper hopes to offer a different focus on the work of a poet already central to the English lyric tradition, while also providing a productive way to think about the close relationship between religious and secular lyric.


“Thomas Tusser and the Poetics of the Plow”
Scott K. Oldenburg
Tulane University
Thomas Tusser’s Elizabethan bestseller, Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry (1557), has often been discussed as didactic poetry, a kind of verse almanac for farmers. But the book sold too many copies to have had such a singular appeal. Gabriel Harvey, among many others, possessed a copy of the book, and Harvey was presumably not primarily interested in what conditions would make for the best barley or the daily diet of a farmer.

What is often overlooked is the book’s appeal as an experiment in poetic form. A former court musician, Tusser was not merely recording his experiences on the farm but rather engaging in a conscious effort to displace courtly aesthetics, especially the highly stylized georgic. Organized around a calendar year (like Spenser’s Shepheardes Calender), Tusser yokes a variety of meters to everyday subject matter, a kind of materialist counter to the dominant poetics of Wyatt and Surrey.


Figurative, Allegorical, Literal: Rethinking Fundamentals   
Sponsor: Southeastern Renaissance Conference
Organizer: Heather Anne Hirschfeld, University of Tennessee
Chair and Respondent: Thomas Fulton, Rutgers University 

“‘Literal’: The Wandering Wood and Lowly Hermitage of Spenser’s Fairie Queene
Lauren Shohet
Villanova University
“I literally died,” says the mortified (but still ambulatory) middle-schooler. Current colloquial usage of “literal” to indicate its opposite strikes wordsmiths as uncogent. The duplicity of the “literal” is, however, no trendy novelty. As a contrast to the figurative, “literal” marks bald referentiality, indicating meaning that is bounded by the “letter” as alphabetic character. Within the economy of the “literary,” by contrast, “literal” in the sense of “lettery” is precisely unbounded, operating with all the supple dynamism of complex semiotic aesthetics. 
Spenser’s Redcrosse Knight would recognize kinship with the “literally” dying seventh grader, “mortification” etymologically encapsulating death. I suggests that what intitially might seem sui generis in The Faerie Queene’s explorations of the “literal” in fact limn the literal’s characteristic duality, as Redcrosse discovers how the superficial letter interpenetrates semantic possibilities that extend both laterally (into other texts) and vertically (into the history of single words in his own text).

The Public Relations of Poets in Early Modern England  
Sponsor: English Literature, RSA Discipline Group
Organizer: Steven Monte, CUNY, College of Staten Island
Chair: Heather Dubrow, Fordham University

“Poetic Alliances and Factions in Late Elizabethan England: Spenser, Daniel, and Shakespeare”
Steven Monte 
CUNY, College of Staten Island
Unlike the courtier poets of the early sixteenth century, English poets of the late Elizabethan period were mostly middle-class writers competing for patronage and recognition. One way in which competition manifested itself was in poetic alliances and factions. Indeed, the cultural climate was such that friendships and feuds became a subject matter of poems—from pastorals like Colin Clout Comes Home Again, in which Spenser surveys the poetry scene, to the satires of Marston and Hall, which contain ad hominem attacks on other poets. My paper focuses on metapoetic discussions of friends and rivals in the poetry of Edmund Spenser, Samuel Daniel, and William Shakespeare, with particular attention paid to dedication poems. Daniel strategically allies himself with Spenser; Shakespeare takes counter-measures. In the process, both poets define what it means to be a poet.


Spenserian Emergences I   
Sponsor: International Spenser Society
Organizer and Chair: J. K. Barret, University of Texas at Austin

Andrew Michael Carlson
“Mutabilitie’s Unperfection”
Rutgers University, New Brunswick
My essay seeks to explain one particular “emergency” in Spenser’s The Faerie Queene: the “unperfite” eighth canto on Mutabilitie that concludes—or fails to conclude—our text of the poem. Rather than taking “unperfite” simply to mean “historically unfinished”—or interpreting it as another example of the endlessness of a deconstructive text—I consider how evidence internal and external to the text suggests the “unperfect” as a category of aesthetic and didactic value. In The Defence of Poesy, Sidney argues that poetry’s didactic utility lies in its capacity to lead us toward “perfection.” But even for Sidney, poetry’s instructive potential and its aesthetic “perfection” do not necessarily bear a positive correspondence. I argue further that in the Mutabilitie Cantos Spenser specifically reclaims the unperfect by offering Mutabilitie herself as an exemplary figure for the unperfect as a value proper to poetry.


“‘Perfect Holes’: The Cases of the Missing Scar and of the Vanishing Stanzas’” 
Megan Kathleen Smith
University of California, Los Angeles
Busirane’s reverse incantation leaves Amoret “perfect hole,” a pun that overflows onto the surrounding textual corpus. In particular, the final five stanzas of the 1590 version produce their own (w)hole, at once completing a story and vanishing beneath the rewriting of 1596. Narrative gaps ensue. My paper will focus on the final canto of Book Three where I discover that the problem, morally speaking, lies not in the rewriting but in the fantasy of un-writing, which is concluded in the original ending and figured in Amoret’s flawless skin. 

Rather than explaining or dismissing “Spenserian emergencies” as mess, we might build upon them an ethics of messiness. Perfection is The Faerie Queene’s most dangerous illusion; it presents the trap of violent erasure as well as of idle idolatry. It tempts us to deny individuals their scar-written subjectivity and to reject opportunities for active healing as a community.


“Needless Alexandrine”
Stephen Merriam Foley
Brown University
“A needless Alexandrine ends the song, / That, like a wounded snake, drags its slow length along.” Pope’s put-down gets many things right, including necessity and affliction. Spenser marks the romance stanza with a line superfluous topically, redundant metrically, stitched across an uneven scar. It also asserts an aesthetic necessity that makes the stanza Spenser’s. If Cupid strips the hexameter finger away to create the elegiac couplet, Spenser’s disarmed Cupid brings with him mild Venus and triumphant Mart and a terminal couplet that partially restores an heroic fullness of argument to a style afflicted by the conditions of Christian romance, if only one can hear the extra beat “a-while.” This essay looks at this Empsonian blank bright spot in relation to two classical opportunities, the elegiac distich and the uneven tilt of Vergil’s spondaic line. In this crowded room an extra foot makes for a big kick.


The Verbal-Visual Structure of Spenser’s Shepheardes Calender    
Sponsor: Society for Emblem Studies
Organizer: Kenneth Borris, McGill University
Chair: William Allan Oram, Smith College


The Emblematic Role of the Pictures in Spenser’s Shepheardes Calender
Kenneth Borris
McGill University
Although Spenser’s Shepheardes Calender (1579) is a verbal-visual text wherein each of the twelve monthly eclogues begins with a picture, scholars have focused on the poetry with relatively little attention to these pictures. Whereas the major account of them, Ruth Samson Luborsky’s, assumes that they are modally “depictive” or naturalistic, “not emblematic,” this paper argues the contrary. It focuses on March’s poem and picture to show that they are deeply informed by an iconographical motif of hitherto unrecognized relevance, that had been made familiar by Andrea Alciato’s seminal emblem book, the Emblemata. Since the Calender thus draws on emblematic precedents in emblematic ways, it is very much a verbal-visual text wherein its pictures and their relation to the poetry require as much attention as the latter. In the Calender Spenser innovatively merged the eclogue collection not only with the eponymous early-modern almanac but also with the emblem book.

Reading Colin’s Motto: Posthumous Life and Literary History in Spenser’s ‘Nouember’”
Jeff Espie 
University of Toronto
Addressing the Nouember eclogue of Spenser’s Shepheardes Calender, this paper focuses on its initial picture, Colin Clout’s concluding French motto, and their literary-historical valences. The woodcut and motto enable Spenser’s rewriting of Marot’s Eglogue sur le Trépas de ma Dame Loyse de Savoye, and thus establish a dialectical relationship between two forms of immortality: the picture presents an immortality won by the poet for himself on earth; the motto presents an immorality won by Christ for his devotees in heaven. By constructing this relationship, Spenser signals his divergence not only from Marot, but also from Chaucer, whom the original gloss to Colin’s motto cites as an authority on Christian redemption. This citation, which appeals to Chaucer’s Parson’s Tale and has never before received a detailed analysis, positions Chaucer as an author who ultimately prioritized heavenly over poetic immortality—a prioritization that Spenser’s visual and verbal devices presume to challenge.

“Beholding Colin Beheld”
Tamara A. Goeglein
Franklin & Marshall College
Colin Clout is depicted five times in Spenser’s Shepheardes Calender: in the visual images preceding the January, April, June, November, and December eclogues. Four of the eclogues conclude with “Colins Embleme” [January (“Anchôra Speme”), June (“Gia speme spenta”), November (“La mort ny mord”), and December], with the December emblem left blank. Colin sings in four eclogues (January, June, November, and December), and, in April, Hobbinol sings Colin’s lay; even though Colin is not present in the April eclogue, he is however pictured present. Even though he is visually and verbally present in December, he is not emblematically presented. Colin’s presence and absence thus raises questions about how he is beheld and who beholds him? And what does he want from us beholders now? Answers to these questions afford insight into how Spenser read emblems and how we might read his.


Spenserian Emergencies II    
Sponsor: International Spenser Society
Organizer and Chair: J. K. Barret, University of Texas at Austin

“Magic as Threat to Narrative in The Faerie Queene
Clare Greene
Rutgers University
The Faerie Queene’s narrator is frequently seduced by the appeal of figures like Archimago who can perform magical feats only possible in the world of the poem. Though he strives to educate the reader in virtue, the narrator frequently undermines the reader’s judgment through his complicity with Archimago’s schemes. I focus on the formal rather than the moral consequences of this problem. Archimago’s magic thrives on resemblance-based techniques in addition to spectacle: he creates the false Una, dons disguises, and uses subtle linguistic trickery identifiable only by rereading - which the narrator fails to prompt. Resemblance is difficult to narrate because excessive exposition is required to distinguish between an original and its imitation. Archimago’s resemblance-based magic also leads to confusions among categories we depend on remaining separate, such as those of narrator, figure, and reader, making Archimago a threat to narrative rather than a simple villain.


“‘No Time to Scan’: The Legend of Justice and the End of Reading”
Catherine Nicholson 
Yale University
The pivot from friendship to justice in the 1596 Faerie Queene is spurred by a refusal to read: as her son Marinell languishes on his underwater deathbed, the nymph Cymoent casts aside the Protean prophecy that has puzzled her for years and springs into action, demanding restitution from the god of the sea on the basis of a legal technicality. Cymoent’s precipitous abandonment of the endless work of interpretation—it was, she realizes, “no time to scan”—sets the stage for Book Five’s relentless critique of reading as pastime and profession. Scholarly reading is slow reading, and such reading can seem an insupportable luxury in a state of political, ecological, disciplinary emergency. The Legend of Justice offers no easy solutions to our own “crisis in the humanities,” but it offers some uncanny perspectives on contemporary debates about humanistic study, from the politics of formalism to the value of machine reading.


“Spenser’s Swarms” 
Ross Lerner 
Occidental College
This paper argues that crowds create a political and aesthetic crisis within The Faerie Queene. With special emphasis on the “crew” that gathers around the Giant in 5.2, this presentation proposes that Spenser struggles to address two interpretations of rebellious crowds: on the one hand, revolt begins with an individual whose passion acts as contagion that forms a collective as it spreads, and, on the other hand, disobedient passions are simply endogenous to any multitude. Spenser’s representation of the Giant’s crew as a “swarme of flyes” productively fails to synthesize these interpretations and produces a political and poetic emergency, the threat of which justice banishes from the poem. And yet “swarming” offers an occasion for Spenser’s narrative itself to trouble the tableau of justice; the flies, in this reiterated simile, hide from the view of Talus and the narrator, resisting incorporation within the allegorical disenchantment of the swarming multitude.


Spenser: Asceticism, Theology, Authorship     
Organizer: Renaissance Society of America
Chair: Joel Michael Dodson, Southern Connecticut State University

“Revising Asceticism: Spenser’s Ambiguous Monasteries” 
John Walters 
Indiana University
Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, and according to Elizabethan Protestant writers, that was a good thing. Renaissance English representations of monasticism typically portray it as hypocritical, exploitative, and anything but genuinely devout. Yet some writers tried to separate monasticism from Christian asceticism, endeavoring to recover aspects of the latter (an ideal with roots in the primitive church) for Reformed spirituality. In The Faerie Queene, Spenser ventures back to monasteries several times in an effort to imagine a purified Christian contemplative life. In the House of Holiness, Spenser depicts ascetic practices and contemplation as necessary components of Reformed belief. While agreeing with his fellow Protestants that these should not become ends in themselves, he insists on their vitality. Later, when the Blatant Beast ransacks a monastery, Spenser subtly criticizes the precipitate, self-serving nature of English monastic disestablishment, which severs English Protestants from an ascetic tradition they should rightfully inherit as Christians.


“Spenser’s Ecumenical Order of Salvation”
Luke Taylor 
Baylor University
This paper argues that the Legend of Holiness combines a reformed order of salvation with the sacraments of the established Church. As a predestined individual, Red Cross follows a recognizable Pauline narrative: he is first called (canto nine) and then justified (canto ten). Red Cross is glorified, however, through a Triduum liturgy of regenerative baptism (canto eleven). Drawing on the work of revisionary historians of the Reformation (Duffy: 1992, et al), I uncover an unfamiliar Spenser–both more of a godly Protestant and more of a traditional believer than most critics have allowed. This paper advances original readings: Red Cross’s justification pivots on divine love, Charissa’s childbirth in the House of Holiness; the Knight’s subsequent entombment in the Well of Life recalls an abolished Holy Saturday ritual. Overall, it proposes that Spenser’s notorious theological ambiguity is rhetorically calculated: his narrative shapes an ecumenical concord between Protestant belief and traditional practice.


“Spenser, the Muses, and Authorship”
Barbara Kiefer Lewalski
Harvard University
What did the classical muses have to do with English Renaissance poets? References to them are sometimes simply a rhetorical topos, but often they illuminate a poet’s idea of authorship. Taking Spenser as primary example, I analyze a range of such references, as when in “October” in The Shepheardes Calender poet Cuddie sees the muses as sources of inspiration for Colin Clout, while Colin denies that they have anything to do with his lowly verse, but then, in “December,” asserts that “The wiser Muses after Colin run.” A focal point is Spenser’s “Tears of the Muses,” where each Muse speaks for the genre she represents, and the dangers that engulf it. Also, Spenser and other poets sometimes refer to “my muse” as a personal possession—the poetic self, or some aspect of it. This paper examines what such uses mean for Spenser’s idea of poetry and poets.


Spenser’s Afflicted Style   
Sponsor: International Spenser Society
Organizer and Chair: J. K. Barret, University of Texas at Austin

“Struggling with Daphnaïda“ 
Kreg Segall
Regis College
This discussion will consider Daphnaïda, which David Lee Miller has called a “bad poem” that we are meant to laugh at. The poem has been noted as, at best, a lesser work. How should a critic respond to a poem deemed more suitable to historical consideration than formal analysis? My talk considers the poem from two perspectives: first, the idea that, instead of being “bad,” the poem offers an emergent view of unstable, lurching, and groping mourning which may feel inaesthetic to the reader; and second, my own critical lurches and groping, as a critic confronted with a Spenserian poem so spiky and resistant to my sense that the poem’s structure has something to teach us. To what extent does contemporary psychological research on grief mourning help the poem open up, and to what extent is this a hail-mary pass on the part of the critic?


“Spenser, Knowledge, and Satiric Style”
Tristan Samuk
University of Toronto
At the beginning of Spenser’s Mother Hubberds Tale, the speaker takes a moment to warn his readers about what is to come: “Base is the style, and matter meane withal.” As it turns out, the satirical poem’s “base style” includes everything from fable, to pastoral, to epic. It does so because, as my paper will demonstrate, hybridity is the basic characteristic of Spenserian satire. It deliberately blends lofty and base, center and periphery, and humanity and nature to create a kind of distance from its targets. This distance is a poetic means of making a claim to objective knowledge. As I will try to show, Spenser turns to satire at key moments in the pastorals and The Faerie Queene as a way to ask serious questions about the possibility of knowing the truth. In Spenser’s poetry, satire is at once a style and an epistemological strategy.


“Style and Disguise in Spenser’s Mother Hubberds Tale
Taylor Cowdery
Harvard University
As Renaissance theorists from Erasmus to Puttenham remind us, style clothes a poet’s source matter. This paper suggests Spenser’s well-known interest in styles, selves, and fashions is complicated by his fixation upon disguise. In Mother Hubberds Tale, Spenser obscures the medieval roots of his matter even while the Fox and Ape don a series of disguises to conceal their true identities. Like the garments that clothe the biblical Aaron—to whom the Ape alludes in an important passage—poetic style seems tasked with the translation of “matter meane” into a newer, brighter outfit. But such new outfits never quite fit the matter they clothe, and as a result, Spenserian style would seem to obey less Erasmian principles of decorum and more its own logic of catachresis and play. Matter and style are kept in a disheveled relation, and all style is cast as a form of imperfect, or afflicted, disguise. 

“Psalmic Style in The Faerie Queene
Jenna Lay
Lehigh University
Like many of his predecessors and contemporaries, Spenser approached the Psalms as a rich devotional and poetic resource. Though his rendering of the seven penitential psalms is now lost, their influence is evident throughout his career, from A Theatre for Worldlings to The Faerie Queene. In this talk, I will suggest that the progress of the Red Crosse Knight’s confrontation with Despair and eventual redemption in the House of Holiness offers a revealing example of Spenser’s psalmic style. These cantos incorporate echoes of Anne Lock’s Meditation of a Penitent Sinner, a sonnet sequence that dilates upon Psalm 51, expanding nineteen Biblical verses into twenty-six separate poems. Spenser’s psalmic interlude thus reveals both the poetic modes that enabled his exploration of religious controversy and reform in Book 1 of The Faerie Queene and the formal influence of a female Calvinist poet and translator on the canon of early modern literature. 


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"Conferences," Spenser Review 46.1.20 (Spring-Summer 2016). Accessed September 20th, 2018.
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