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Conferences

51st International Congress on Medieval Studies
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo, Michigan
May 12-15, 2016


Spenserian Cornerstones
Sponsoring Organizations: Spenser at Kalamazoo
Organizer Name: Sean Henry, Rachel E. Hile, Susannah Brietz Monta
Organizer Affiliation: University of Victoria, Indiana University-Purdue University-Fort Wayne, University of Notre Dame
Presider: Thomas Fulton, Rutgers University
Opening Remarks: William A. Oram, Smith College
 

“Spenser’s ‘Other Undertaking’: The Faerie Queene and Financing Hap-Hazard”
Jean R. Brink
Huntington Library
 
A decade elapsed between the publication of the Shepheardes Calender in 1579 and 1 December 1589, the date that the Faerie Queene was entered into the Stationers’ Register. This ten-year interval indicates that Spenser, however significant his poetic aspirations, was not rushing his poetry into print. Andrew Hadfield correctly interprets this hiatus as evidence of “the significant demands that his working life placed upon him,” but then obfuscates the issue of why Spenser set out to publish the Faerie Queene in 1589 by claiming “that his work had caused offence in 1579-80” and then further confuses the connection between economics and publication by asserting that “only when he had freed himself of the need for dependence on patrons did Spenser feel able to place his work before the public again” (156). [1] Although Spenser may well have dreamed of freeing himself from the pervasive Elizabethan patronage system, it is unlikely that he ever did and certain that he had not done so in 1590 when the Faerie Queene was printed.  The Faerie Queene (1590) appeared with a brief prefatory dedication to Queen Elizabeth, and was followed in most copies by no less than twenty-five sonnets addressed to the nobility. [2] However gracefully these sonnets are written, and I agree with William Oram and Wayne Erickson, that they should be considered the shorter sonnet sequence, these dedicatory sonnets decisively demonstrate that Spenser had need of patronage in 1589.

 

Spenser’s Merchant’s Tale: Virgil and Chaucer in the Malbecco Fabliau (III. ix-x)”
Nickolas Haydock
University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez

Abstract not available.
 
“I feel the earth move”: Geological Humanity in the Spenser-Harvey Letters and the House of Busirane
Bradley D. Tuggle
University of Alabama
 
The Dover Straits Earthquake of 6 April 1580 occasioned much soul-searching and hand-wringing in the English Christian polis. Read as a sign from God, theologically-minded writers responded with calls to godly living. But whatever their religious leanings may have been, Gabriel Harvey and his pupil Edmund Spenser approached the earthquake as a training ground for more specifically human questions. They employ the earthquake, both in their letters and in Spenser’s Faerie Queene, in a critical and complex analogy between the movements of the earth and the emotions of human subjects. 

From the new scientific theories of Galileo and Copernicus to the moving sculpture of Bernini, the Renaissance is a period that obsesses over movement, scientifically, aesthetically, and ethically. In late-sixteenth century England, movement is being reconceptualized in its relation to what we now call human emotion.  As has been exhaustively proven, early modern English writers were engaged in a project to think more critically about human emotion than simple Galenism made possible. Moreover, these same Renaissance thinkers constantly turn to non-human material in order to gain special kinds of insight on human problems. 

Though Gabriel Harvey’s lecture on the earthquake, as he presents it in a published letter to Spenser, is highly mirthful and mocking, Harvey’s deep learning and incisive analysis of the earthquake’s meaning shine through. In a mockery of university scholasticism that could only come from a practitioner of it, Harvey links the earth with the human body. “The Earth you knowe,” he begins, “is a mighty great huge body” (451). The line’s triple string of modifiers (“mighty great huge”) is absurdly pompous, but also makes a very important metaphorical starting point for Harvey’s mock-treatise, linking the earth to the human body. The earth, he continues, “consisteth of many diuers, and contrarie members, and vaines, and arteries, and concauities, wherein to auoide the absurditie of Vacuum, most necessarily be very great store of substantiall matter, and sundry Accidental humours, and fumes, and spirites, either good, or bad, or mixte” (451). The passage elaborates the bodily metaphor by drawing on the overlap of the lexicons of anatomy and geology: members, veins, arteries, concavities, humors, fumes, and spirits. As I will show, this analogy is critically developed throughout Harvey’s letter.

In a similar way, the geological character of human emotion can be seen clearly in the last canto of Book III of The Faerie Queene. As Britomart awaits a chance to enter the inner room of Busirane’s house, a small earthquake heralds the appearance of Cupid. Though the passage is glossed by A. C. Hamilton as a reference to the earthquake of 6 April 1580, no one has yet considered the implications of the next two lines of Spenser’s poem:

     Yet the bold Britonesse was nought ydred,

Though much emmou’d, but stedfast still perseuered. (III.xii.2)

The word that is both important and ambivalent in these lines is emmou’d, a word that conveys both the physical shaking of Britomart’s body and the psychological turbulence of her mind. Thus the Spenserian poem develops its analogies, in this case the analogy between earthly physics and the human self. 

 

“Spenser’s March and Sixteenth-Century Philology”
David Adkins
Univ. of Toronto

This paper argues that March is a product of sixteenth-century humanism and must be read in the context of recent philological advances in the study of Hellenistic literature.  It aims to re-evaluate critical assumptions concerning the poem’s imitation of classical and humanist models and to explore how sixteenth-century philology shaped Elizabethan poetry and political discourse. 

The two major editions of Spenser’s shorter poems both note that the March eclogue is modeled on Ronsard’s imitation and Poliziano’s translation of Bion’s fourth Idyll.  Poliziano, however, never translated Bion’s idyll: Conrad Gesner is in fact the first to translate it in his 1543 edition of Stobaeus’ Anthologion, followed soon after by Henri Estienne.  The error is symptomatic of two larger problems.   The first is the paucity of criticism on March since Leo Spitzer and D.C. Allen illustrated its reception of Bion and Ronsard in the 1950s.  The second is that the scholarship on the eclogue fails to fully appreciate it as a distinctly sixteenth-century poem, one that would have looked quite different had it been composed earlier in the Renaissance.

Poliziano did translate Moschus 1, as E.K. notes; Thomalin’s emblem, though, suggests Spenser read Baïf’s version of the idyll, which—uniquely among early modern editions and translations of Moschus 1—renders line 10 so that fiel [χολά] and cœur [νόος] are placed in a clause of their own, thus preserving the miel-et-fiel antithesis.  Moreover, there is nothing arbitrary about Baïf’s reading, Thomalin’s emblem, or Ronsard’s and Spenser’s choice to conflate Bion 4 with Moschus 1: the two idylls were often printed together, along with other Hellenistic poems that dramatize the honey-and-gall antithesis, some with narratives about Eros suffering a bee sting.

Furthermore, while some critics have judged March a trifle owing to its Alexandrian aesthetic, in Spenser’s time March’s Hellenistic themes and rhetorical figures carried political as well as erotic significance.  In The Discovery of a Gaping Gulfe John Stubbs employs both forms of the honey-and-gall conceit—that which opposes honey to gall proper, and that which opposes it to an insect’s sting—as he decries Elizabeth’s potential marriage to Alençon.  March’s imitation of the classics thus inscribes its own historical moment inasmuch as it draws upon recent humanist scholarship and poetry to address contemporary political crisis. 

Description
New research on the Elizabethan poet Edmund Spenser, his Irish experience, and his poems, The Faerie Queene and Shepheardes Calender.
David Wilson-Okamura


 
In Honor of Anne Lake Prescott

Sponsoring Organization(s): Spenser at Kalamazoo
Organizer Name: Jennifer Vaught, David Scott Wilson-Okamura, Sean Henry
Organizer Affiliation: University of Louisiana-Lafayette, East Carolina University, University of Victoria 

 

Spenserian Parody?”
Judith H. Anderson
Indiana University-Bloomington

Abstract not available. 

“Ut Architectura Poesis: Spenser’s Lyric Practice and the Ruines of France’s Rome”
A. E. B. Coldiron
Florida State University 

As Anne Prescott has demonstrated, Spenser’s engagements with France—translations, imitations, lexical and formal patterning, ideological encounters—permeate, enrich, and animate his work. After a brief review of those engagements, and quoting throughout Prescott’s crucial work about them, this paper revisits Spenser’s Complaints, especially the sequences from Du Bellay and Marot, and takes up some of the following matters:  In the paratexts, volume composition, and mise-en-page of Du Bellay’s Antiquitez … et Songe sequences,  architecture functions in particular ways to shape the reader’s understanding (not only metaphors of architecture, but also the “builded” use of poetic forms and page designs, and indeed the architecture of the volume itself). In contrast, in Spenser’s Complaints, an architectural poetics functions very differently. The paper reads the French and English liminal poems to Ruines and Antiquitez in terms of their respective architectural poetics: the original sonnet Spenser creates in praise of Du Bellay, repositioned as a finale, not an entry-arch, and recast in form and metaphor, is a risky, perhaps rickety replacement for Du Bellay’s famous sonnet to the French King. But particular ideas about English poetry and nationhood (and religion) that recur in Spenser’s oeuvre shore up his revision of the French Rome, and underpin his reconstructed Ruines

 

Spenser’s Other Elizabeth: Praise and the Problem of Flattery”
Donald Stump
St. Louis University 

Much hangs on the question whether, in praising Elizabeth I, Spenser violates his own Humanist principles. The Mercilla episode and the proems to Books I-V of The Faerie Queen treat the Queen, not as a fallible mortal, but as a goddess, reflecting from her visage the very light of God and dispensing justice as if from the Mercy Seat of heaven. In doing so, Spenser seems to ignore warnings against flattery in the Bible, in widely read works of Greek and Roman moral philosophy, and in Protestant theology—not to mention his own Mother Hubberds Tale. What, then, are we to say to Karl Marx’s charge that he was “the Queen’s arse-licking poet”?  

The best answer lies in the Amoretti. Although The Faerie Queene does not offer a defense against charges of flattery, the sonnets do. In Sonnet 85, the poet reproves those who accuse him of flattering his future wife, charging them with ignorance. His celebration of her “heauenly” nature does not, he claims, originate with him at all but with a higher power, and it has nothing to do with her nature as seen by “the world.” Inflected with neo-Platonic and Christian theology, the sonnet stresses the contrast between earthly and divine perceptions and between imperfect matter and ideal form. Even though the poet loves Elizabeth Boyle, he can only “deeme of her desert” by divine illumination, moved by a version of Plato’s “divine fury” that reveals heavenly truths that are otherwise unattainable by mortals.  

Spenser’s reference to “heauenly fury” here is crucial because it shows that he does not have the flesh-and-blood Elizabeth Boyle in mind but an ideal, which he calls her “inward worth.” The material girl is, of course, all too present elsewhere in the sequence. Proud, tyrranical, and willfully cruel (Sonnets 10, 47, 54), she is a new Pandora, sent from heaven into the world to be “to wicked men a scourge” (24); a mocker of the poet’s sufferings, and “no woman, but a sencelesse stone” (54). Though his words express as much about his own frustration as about her actual qualities (and follow Petrarchan convention), I would argue that they must have had some basis in fact, since Spenser’s new wife would hardly have liked a wedding gift based on mischaracterizations or poetic nonsense. However unflattering, the portait of arrogance and intransigence must have been drawn from the life, as seen through his not entirely reliable eyes.  

It helps to take the sting out of the unflattering sonnets that those idealizing Elizabeth run through much of the middle part of the sequence, appearing for example in the “joy resembing heavenly madnes” that her first smile produces (39), in the later characterization of her mind as “pure immortall high” (55), and of his own mind as seeking through love of her “to mount up to the purest sky,” even though at the moment he is “clogd with burden of mortality” (72). The obstacle to his Platonic ascent is not his alone. In Sonnet 45, he calls on her to leave her glass and gaze on her “semblant” through his eyes, as he beholds her true form. The epistemology here echoes that of Sonnet 85, though now it is the unseeing beloved, not the ignorant reader, who is called on to ascend the Platonic ladder. Elizabeth Boyle is every bit as “clogd with burden of mortality” as he and the ignorant reader of Sonnet 85. Since all three are characterized as blind to “thing so divine” unless inspired by heavenly powers, none is being flattered.  

Although there is no time to make the case in detail in a brief paper, much the same defense can be offered for Spenser’s apparently flattering claims about his other Elizabeth in The Faerie Queene. Though Platonism largely gives way there to Christian perceptions that, like all human beings, the queen was created in the image of God and, like all monarchs, exercises divine authority on earth, it is her “inward worth,” not what “the world” perceives, that occupies the passages of the loftiest praise. Of Elizabeth the fallible woman we have other representations. Her youthful vulnerability and aggressiveness appear in Una and Britomart, her explosive anger toward couriers who violated the terms of her cult of love in Belphoebe—and even perhaps, though glancingly, her half-repressed sexuality in Malacasta and her overweening pride in Dame Pride. As with his wife, so with the queen. The poet was no flatterer.

Description
New research on Queen Elizabeth I, the poet Edmund Spenser, his French sources, The Faerie Queene, and The Ruines of Rome.
David Wilson-Okamura


The Faerie Queene
Sponsoring Organization(s): General Session
Presider Name: Melissa J. Rack Presider Affiliation: University of Tennessee-Knoxville

 

Battling Bibles and Spenser’s Dragon: Visions of Revelation in the Legend of Holiness”
Thomas Fulton
Rutgers University

Abstract not available. 

Well seene in everie science that mote bee’: Women with Knowledge in Book Four of The Faerie Queene”
Katie D. Ryan
York University
 

This paper will bring the rarely cited women of Book Four’s second and third cantos to the forefront, looking specifically at Cambina and Canacee whom are only discussed in Spenserian criticism as elements of Chaucerian tradition. I argue that the women of these cantos—Cambina and Canacee in particular, but Agape and the false Florimell to lesser extents—are unique to The Faerie Queene because the introduction of all four women in these cantos is prefaced by their knowledge, learning, and skills, rather than their beauty or relations to male peers (in fact, Cambina being the sister of the triplet boys is never explicitly mentioned, only that she is also a child of that same Fay). These women are given autonomous thought and action and specific knowledges that make them assets rather than liabilities to the men around them; their educations seem to prepare them for the female friendships they will foster. The characters are anomalies in the poem and in early modern culture because they have been well schooled (Canacee is “the most learndest Ladie in her dayes;” Cambina “farre excelled all other” in all of the arts) but unlike other women with knowledges (like the “accursed Hag” of Book Three) their introductions are not clouded by fear, judgement, or accusations of witchcraft. These women are largely positive examples of female education and bringing them into the spotlight for their achievements in learning and female bonding explores another facet of Spenser’s relationship to women.

 

The Recontextualization of Christian Doctrine at the End of Middle Ages
Sponsoring Organization(s): Taiwan Association of Classical, Medieval, and Renaissance Studies (TACMRS)
Organizer Name: Chih-hsin Lin
Organizer Affiliation: National Chengchi University, Brent Addison Moberly, Indiana University Bloomington

 

Up to the Farthest, Highest Peak of Mystic Scripture’: Mystical Itineraries from Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite to Saint John of the Cross”
Wesley Hwang
National Chung Hsing University

The history of Christian mysticism is prolific of the journey motif, namely, the concept of life as a progress of stages towards union with God. One particular form of such motif is the ascent of a holy mountain. This form can be traced back to the biblical account of Moses’ ascent of Mount Sinai where he spoke with God in the dark clouds (Exodus 19-20). Relying on Moses’ experience as a matrix, a number of mystics have made use of itineraries in order to articulate what they have experienced within the context of the doctrines and beliefs of a certain religious community or tradition and what they have intended to help their followers to live their doctrines and beliefs in real life.

The present paper attempts to examine the following itineraries: (1) the mystical way or ascent of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (late fifth and sixth centuries); (2) the contemplative ascent in The Journey of the Mind to God by Bonaventure (1217-74); (3) the ascent of the contemplative life formulated by the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing (ca. 1345-ca. 1386); and (4) the dark night of the soul and the spiritual journey in St. John of the Cross (1542-91).

Itineraries are not produced in a vacuum. In addition to introducing the distinguished itineraries mentioned above, the present paper will explore in what cultural or religious circumstances these mystics have formulated their respective itineraries and how they have re-contextualized earlier texts or itineraries. Finally, the present paper will offer some reflections on the significance of these paradigmatic itineraries for the life of modern people. Bernard McGinn comments significantly: “The notion of being on an itinerary not only corresponds to everyday experience but also allows us to give structure and meaning to the confusion we often find in life.”

“‘Of Haukyn the Actif Man’: Recontextualizing the Active Life in Piers Plowman
Carolyn F. Scott
National Cheng Kung University

Abstract not available. 

“Simple Pastors and Deceitful Preachers in the Pastoral World of Spenser’s Shepheardes Calender”
Chih-hsin Lin

This paper will bring the rarely cited women of Book Four’s second and third cantos to the forefront, looking specifically at Cambina and Canacee whom are only discussed in Spenserian criticism as elements of Chaucerian tradition. I argue that the women of these cantos—Cambina and Canacee in particular, but Agape and the false Florimell to lesser extents—are unique to The Faerie Queene because the introduction of all four women in these cantos is prefaced by their knowledge, learning, and skills, rather than their beauty or relations to male peers (in fact, Cambina being the sister of the triplet boys is never explicitly mentioned, only that she is also a child of that same Fay). These women are given autonomous thought and action and specific knowledges that make them assets rather than liabilities to the men around them; their educations seem to prepare them for the female friendships they will foster. The characters are anomalies in the poem and in early modern culture because they have been well schooled (Canacee is “the most learndest Ladie in her dayes;” Cambina “farre excelled all other” in all of the arts) but unlike other women with knowledges (like the “accursed Hag” of Book Three) their introductions are not clouded by fear, judgement, or accusations of witchcraft. These women are largely positive examples of female education and bringing them into the spotlight for their achievements in learning and female bonding explores another facet of Spenser’s relationship to women.


Description
As a religion that centers on Christ’s resurrection and the fulfillment of the Old Covenant by the New Covenant, Christianity has always been built upon interpretations and reinterpretations of its doctrines that help Christians to live the doctrine in real lives. To recontextualize Christianity for people facing religious problems in a social context different from that established in the Bible, authors need to make use of existent cultural expressions to help their readers identify their own corruptions and live the doctrine, whether such expression are derived from Christian or pagan traditions. Such recontextualization for religious instruction was particularly challenging at the end of the Middle Ages as the anti-clerical movement and the precursors of the Reformation often questioned the authority of the Catholic Church to interpret the Bible. This session aims to examine texts that show efforts to recontextualize Christian doctrine with the awareness of the danger of distorting the doctrine on the one hand and the importance of living the doctrine in real lives on the other. This session welcomes papers that examine literary, theological, historical, or philosophical texts and images that show concerns for such recontextualization or solutions to problems such as misinterpretation, literalism, deceitful authors, or intractable or untrained readers.
Chih-hsin Lin



[1] Andrew Hadfield, Edmund Spenser: A Life. Oxford UP, 2012, p. 156. See also p. 205 and pp. 200-201.

[2] Wayne Erickson, The 1590 Faerie Queene: Paratexts and Publishing, In Studies in the Literary Imagination vol. 38, Fall 2005.  

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46.2.24

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"Conferences," Spenser Review 46.2.24 (Fall 2016). Accessed September 24th, 2018.
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