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Sixteenth Century Society Conference
August 18-20, 2016
Bruges, Belgium

Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene
Organizer: Scott C. Lucas
Chair: Thomas L. Herron

“How King Arthur Invented the Twelve Days of Christmas”
Kenneth Hodges
University of Oklahoma
When Spenser chose Christmas as the twelve-day structuring holiday for his Faerie Queene, he engaged an emerging Scottish historical tradition in which King Arthur had invented the twelve days of Christmas. 

Hector Boece’s Historia Gentis Scotorum (1527) and its translations, George Buchanan’s Rerum Scoticarum Historia (1582), and Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles all include Arthur as the beginner of the twelve days of Christmas, thus making Arthur part of the Reformation debates over whether Christmas and other feast-days should be purged from the reformed church and how Protestants should relate to the Catholic past.

The association of Arthur and Christmas shows the vitality of the Arthurian tradition in the early modern period.  The Reformation involved a re-analysis of Britain’s relation to Rome and Scotland’s relation to England, and King Arthur was an important figure in both contexts.  Geoffrey of Monmouth had introduced Arthur as a defender of some elements of Roman tradition even as he beat back Roman aggression; Geoffrey also celebrates Arthurian feasts as a sign of his magnificence and narrates Arthur’s conquest of Scotland.  Pre-Reformation works such as the Awntyrs off Arthur, however had begun to cast a critical eye on both Arthurian feasting and conquest.  Scottish historians had a complex re-imagining of Arthur, and Boece introduces the excessive Christmas feasts to emphasize English decadence, which forces Arthur not to invade Scotland but to ally with it.  As the Reformation gained ground, Arthur’s Roman ties became problematic.  Arthur’s conquest of the Scots becomes the way the independent Scottish church, unconquered by Rome, finally came under the domination of Roman Catholicism, and Arthur’s Christmas feasts become not simply a sign of luxurious gluttony but of wrong religion.

Spenser defends Christmas as a holiday, even as he tries to re-imagine Arthur as a Protestant hero free of the Catholic taint that Scottish historiography suggested.


“Feral Speech in Spenser’s The Faerie Queene
Chelsea McKelvey
Southern Methodist University
Spenser’s knights are bad speakers. This may seem an odd statement to make about a poem as poetically masterful as The Fairie Queen, especially in light of critics such as Richard Mallette, Jeff Dolven, and Darryl Gless, who view the poem’s knights as rhetorical instructors to Spenser’s student-readers. But, to cite only a few examples, Britomart ultimately chooses silence over speech whenever she cannot comprehend the trickiness of language, and Calidore never completes his quest of taming the Blatant Beast (the poem’s allegorical embodiment of rampant slander). These two knights often do not learn how to read or use language; their attempts prove ineffectual. They learn to cope, rather than conquer, in the rhetorical language funhouse of Faerieland. The poem does not attempt to teach its readers how to tame language. Instead, its lesson parallels its ending: language, like the Blatant Beast, always elides capture and stability. Performative speech runs rampant through Spenser’s poem; these knights must navigate a minefield of performative language. Furthermore, I argue that their journey often mirrors the experience of early modern individuals after the English Protestant Reformation, when language’s role in personal spirituality was newly scrutinized.  Public prayers or testimonies were increasingly distrusted and viewed as performative rather than authentic. Sacraments and the words of a ceremony could be construed as false and suspicious. Early modern individuals, like Spenser’s knights, could not hope to stabilize or fully know language; like the Blatant Beast, language remains feral.


Spenserian Landscapes
Sponsor: International Spenser Society
Organizer and Chair: Ayesha Ramachandran

“Suppressed Monuments: The Problem of Historical Consciousness in Spenser’s The Ruines of Time
Luke Landtroop
The University of Texas at Austin

Abstract not available.


“‘A stately Castle far away’: Spenserian Prospects”
Archie Cornish
Wadham College, Oxford
Like Mercilla’s throne, elevated so that the queen might “see… and royally be seene” [V.ix.27.3-4], the castles and palaces of The Faerie Queene often represent two prospects: the panorama from the monument itself, and the awestruck sight from below. The sweeping view of Book I’s “watchman” [I.xi.3.7] is clearly connected to the enviable prospects of the Elizabethan prodigy house: the prospect room at Wollaton, for example, satisfies “an old desire to be king of the hill” (Hazard 2000:153). Yet monumental buildings viewed from the perspective of the lowly traveller have received less attention. Britomart spies “a stately Castle far away” [III.i.20.2] and approaches it “directly” [3] in order to discover its interior; similarly, Redcross and Duessa glimpse not only the House of Pride but the road approaching it and the people “which thether traueiled” [I.iv.2.8-9]. In narrative terms, Spenser’s castles and palaces function as their own foreshadowing, hinting both to the journeying characters and the reader what the next episode might contain. As in romance, such buildings acquire a marvellous quality, their surfaces deepening and reconfiguring as a traveller approaches. The way in which the questers in Spenser’s poem experience monumental buildings in space and time should also be connected to the early modern experience of English travel. What kind of impression did the faraway sight of a castle make on an Elizabethan traveller unfamiliar with skyscrapers, and was the Irish equivalent of this experience radically different? My paper suggests some answers.


“Movement and the City in The Faerie Queene
James Ellis
University of Calgary

Read Jim Ellis’s essay here. 


New Perspectives on Spenserian Allegory
Sponsor: International Spenser Society
Organizer: Ayesha Ramachandran
Chair: Jane Grogan


“The Reader’s Enactivist Travels in the Spenserian Storyworld: Virtual and Allegorical Bodies”
Rachel E. Hile
Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne
In this paper, I analyze how Spenser leads his reader to make moral judgments by using the unique characteristics of allegory—that is, the fact that readers transfer not only meanings but also emotional reactions and moral judgments from the source domain to the target domain. I build upon enactivist literary theories as well as other cognitive theories of allegory to analyze two episodes in Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene, the Castle of Alma episode, in which a body is figured as a place, and the Belge episode, in which a place is figured as a body. The Castle of Alma, although it explicitly allegorizes human emotions, is a strangely affectless place, conveying a stoic version of temperance that the reader experiences by imaginatively identifying with the fictional bodies of Guyon and Arthur who travel through this body-place. The focus on the body as material, including the personifications of both emotional states and mental faculties, intellectualizes the experience of having a body in ways that discourage the reader from engaging emotionally with this episode. In contrast, the Belge episode, by making a place into a suffering maternal body, works to prompt both intellectual and emotional responses by inviting the reader to identify with the suffering of the Low Countries by identifying with the experiences of Belge’s body. A key instance occurs in 5.10.25, when the ambiguity of whether the pronoun “her” refers to Belge herself or to one of her cities leads by stanza’s end to the jarring image of a castle built in Belge’s neck.  In both cases, the emotional reaction and its associated moral intuition derive from the literal level, not the allegorical projection.  Spenserian allegory does not transfer only “meaning”; that is, the full package of what the reader projects from the source-domain of the literal level of the text is not just propositional information. Before the reader even makes that projection from source-domain to target-domain she or he has already had an emotional reaction and an intuitive moral response.  Through control of this process, Spenser hopes to influence the moral intuitions of his readers.


“Allegory Between Epic and Lyric: Spenser’s Bleeding Hearts”
Ayesha Ramachandran
Yale University
Much has been written about allegory and epic narrative, but what of the workings of allegory in lyric poetry? Are lyric allegories different from those constructed in narrative verse? What can the shared use of allegory in both epic and lyric tell us about the cognitive effects of the two genres? Focusing on the image of Amoret’s bleeding heart in Book III of The Faerie Queene, a literalized and allegorized trope of Petrarchan lyric which Spenser relocates into his epic narrative, this paper seeks to tease out the complex relations between figuration, genre and cognitive experience. Testing critical debates over allegory and symbol, narrative movement and lyric suspension, I argue that Spenser’s importation and animation of a familiar inert, metaphor into his long poem as a compelling allegory opens a meditation on the two forms of epic and lyric as different modes of knowing. In the process, the paper examines Spenser’s use of allegory in the Amoretti and the Fowre Hymnes alongside his erotic allegories in The Faerie Queene.


Spenserian Intimacies
Sponsor: International Spenser Society
Organizer: Ayesha Ramachandran
Chair: James Ellis

“Collaborative Spenser? Reading the ‘Spenser / Harvey Letters’”
Elizabeth Chaghafi
Universität Tübingen
For most early modern scholars, the pseudonym “Immerito” is inextricably linked to a single author (Edmund Spenser) and a single work (The Shepheardes Calender). In truth, however, matters are a little more complicated. One point that is often overlooked is that The Shepheardes Calender was not the only work by “Immerito.” The jointly authored volume Three Proper and Wittie Familiar Letters / Two Other Very Commendable Letters, published shortly after the Calender in 1580, is an exchange between “two Universitie men” who sign their names as “G.H.” and “Immerito.”

Partly because it is collaborative and thus not truly “by” Spenser, the volume has been comparatively neglected by Spenser scholars, except as a source of biographical information. This essentially meant taking them at face value and treating them like unpublished private correspondence, which is problematic because Letters is a text that has clearly been prepared for print. Additionally, through its many cross-references to the earlier work, the text actively invites readers to join the dots and to compare the “Immerito” of the Letters to the shady author-figure of The Shepheardes Calender, who is spoken about but never speaks in his own voice.

This paper argues that we need to view Letters not as letters in the strict sense of the word but as a collaborative literary work by Spenser and Harvey intended to supplement The Shepheardes Calender, which in turn raises the question of the role of collaboration in the earlier text.


“Gabriel Harvey’s Spenser”
Jean R. Brink
Henry E. Huntington Library
Lack of familiarity with the complete works of Gabriel Harvey, particularly Gratulationes Valdinenses, may explain why Harvey has so readily been accepted as Spenser’s friend and mentor. Andrew Hadfield points to the embarrassing sexual innuendos in Spenser’s Latin poem and then deftly suggests that Spenser, “albeit cheekily,” is placing himself in “the role of suppliant” (57), but concludes that in his Latin poem, Spenser “celebrates the enduring friendship between the two men” and that it is “a public record of his gratitude to Harvey” (105). In this instance, Hadfield is summarizing the existing consensus of scholarly opinion; he is on less solid ground when he argues that Spenser’s contemporaries would have regarded the author of the Faerie Queene as Harvey’s “stooge” (79).

It is difficult to track Harvey’s relationship with Spenser because the records derive from Harvey, and his narratives changes. In Familiar Letters (1580) we are told by “Well-Willer” that Spenser gave him the Harvey-Spenser letters to submit for publication. In Foure Letters (1592) Harvey accepts the responsibility for orchestrating this earlier publication, but even so, it is Familiar Letters, a text purporting to be the collaborative work of Harvey and Spenser, which has been used to pen the narrative of Harvey’s relationship to Spenser. In this paper, I will reexamine the documentary evidence to argue that Harvey was never Spenser’s tutor, to question the intimacy of their friendship, and to demonstrate that contemporaries never regarded Spenser as Harvey’s stooge.    


Numbers, Numerology, and Literary Design
Organizer: William E. Engel
Chair: Elisabeth Chaghafi
Comment: Julian B. Lethbridge


“Christological Numbering in Late-Tudor Sonnet Sequences: Barnes, Spenser and Nugent”
Thomas L. Herron
East Carolina University
This paper traces Christological patterning in the sonnet sequences of Spenser and other sonneteers.  Specifically, the number 33 has strangely been neglected by critics interested in religious numbers and symbolism in lyric poetry sequences (Jesus was aged 33 at his death in most accounts; 33 is a key number to Dante).  Oddly, crucifixion and resurrection images in some sequences tend to cluster in and around the 33rd poem (or stanza), in a basic pattern of painful, piercing death, occasional hellish imagery, and a transcendent message of resurrection to follow.   We see a variation on this theme in Spenser’s Amoretti 33 when the poet asks his friend Bryskett to “lend you me another living breast.”  In such cases, the use of martyrological Christological numerology subtly emphasizes the religious, artistic and ultimately hopeful message of various sequences in ways that promote the Christian significance of their overall structural patterns, while emphasizing the agony of the author-narrator. 


“Subversive Numbers: The Strange Case of Thirteen in The Shepheardes Calender
Syrithe Pugh
University of Aberdeen
One reason for scepticism towards numerology is that the approach seems to predetermine the findings, inevitably revealing that a poem’s fundamental meaning is an assertion of cosmic order, Platonic idealism, Christian devotion, and (where it descends to politics) sacral kingship. At an extreme (ignoring Fowler’s caveat that numerological interpretations require textual support), Heninger asserts that ‘forms,’ in Spenser, ‘coerce the language, overcoming its inaccuracy and deficiency, so that the authority of heavenly beauty may be proclaimed’—whatever words might say. The Shepheardes Calender throws this into relief, with numerological critics rising above the work’s obvious gloom, satire and topicality, and seeing only an ‘optimistic’ ‘image of eternity’.

Number would be a sadly limited medium for poetry if poets could say only one thing with it, but Spenser turns it to more varied uses. There is in the Calender a previously unnoticed pattern of unlucky thirteens, associated in a perfectly regular and consistent way with Spenser’s persona Colin and with the topic of love. Devoid of cosmic connotations, this number is used across the work to underline its central polemical purpose of opposition to the d’Alençon match, even providing an ironic gloss on the traditional structures of panegyric. This is not the only place where Spenser uses number provocatively, to challenge rather than confirm particular configurations of cosmic or political order. Offering another example, I suggest that openness to such effects might make numerology more widely palatable to Renaissance scholars.


The Works of Edmund Spenser
Organizer: Scott C. Lucas
Chair: Rachel Eisendrath


“Protestant Equity and the Case for Spenser’s Republicanism”
Deni Kasa
University of Toronto

Abstract not available.


“That’s Neither Here nor There; or, How Colin Clout Came Home A Gainer”
Christopher Martin
Boston University
My paper explores Edmund Spenser’s Colin Clouts Come Home Againe as a notable instance of Jürgen Habermas’s “process of self-clarification of private people focusing on the genuine experiences of their novel privateness,” demonstrating how the poem’s peculiar trajectory anticipates the “critical public reflection still preoccupied with itself” that the critic posits. Discussed chiefly in terms of its profoundly ambivalent outlook towards the Elizabethan court, the poem betrays Spenser’s nascent attempts to mark the boundaries of a critical space where “selfe-regard of priuate good or ill” authenticates his rounded critique of court politics. Colin emerges from a private “waste” of songs “without rebuke or blame” into a public forum where his fellow shepherds serve as audience and antagonists. In the pastoral discussion that ensues, Spenser’s persona identifies the “furious insolence” that establishes his right to represent the urban realm from which he has returned, and moves to a justification of his equal right to “represent” a more damning perspective on the center of power. Only through his public exchange with the rural company does Colin come to endow his observations with critical substance. In this manner, Spenser develops the pastoral realm’s traditionally “critical” geography into a more sophisticated locus for evaluating the limitations of courtly culture. If the poem records any discontent the author felt at the small “return” his romance epic enjoyed upon its presentation at court, Colin Clout nonetheless comes home literally a “gainer” in the discovery of his capacity to stand his ground as a legitimate “gainsayer.”


Religion and Morality in the Works of Edmund Spenser
Organizer: Scott C. Lucas
Chair: Jean R. Brink


“Making Others Temperate in Book II of The Faerie Queene
Gillian Hubbard
Victoria University of Wellington

Abstract not available.


“Errancy and Education in Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, Book III”
Allison Goff
Queen’s University
Spenser’s adaptation of romance in The Faerie Queene uniquely reflects the complexity and tension surrounding learning and advancement in late early modern England. This paper investigates how the use of the romance quest as an educational journey can facilitate an exploration into how the genre acts as a pedagogical tool. Book III’s Knight of Chastity seems to be modeled after the paradigmatic figure of romance, Prince Arthur. However, that Britomart’s figuration echoes this paradigm draws attention to the differences between the knights. Unlike Redcrosse and Guyon, Britomart deviates from a pattern of errancy and repetition in which readers come to learn the virtues of Holiness and Temperance in Books I and II. The revelation of Merlin’s dynastic prophecy in canto iii shows Britomart is somehow in possession of the virtue of Chastity before the book’s quest begins. I argue that Britomart avoids any error in virtue, and operates as more of a knight un-errant, complicating the matter of learning in Book III as the text itself aims to educate pursuant to a humanist model, in which readers are positioned to learn alongside the narrative’s knights, or from their textual example. Reading Spenser against The Instruction of a Christen Woman where Vives questions “What shulde a mayde do with armour?” (24), this paper explores whether Merlin’s prophecy offers any instruction that can explain how Britomart is figured as error-proof. What, if anything, can be learned from the Knight of Chastity’s quest when it comes to Book III’s virtue?


The Renaissance Society of America Annual Meeting
March 30-April 1, 2017
Chicago, Illinois

Early Modern Poetry and Poetics: From Puttenham to Milton
Sponsor: Southeastern Renaissance Conference
Organizer: John N. Wall, North Carolina State University
Chair: Thomas Luxon, Dartmouth College


The Shepheardes Calender and Formal Suspension in Milton’s ‘Lycidas’”
Jessica Junqueira
University of South Carolina
My paper explores how John Milton’s poem “Lycidas” reworks Edmund Spenser’s December eclogue and epilogue in The Shepheardes Calender. Spenser ends the Calender by juxtaposing seasonal time and eternity; Milton opens “Lycidas” by defining his poetic role in terms of his relationship to different categories of time. Milton’s use of formal suspension in the opening of “Lycidas” and throughout the poem connects registers of temporality that conflict with one another, historical time and the narrative of the poetic career. Milton’s thought of his own premature death interrupts his effort to complete the poem. By examining Milton’s use of formal suspension, I argue for how Milton must accommodate seasonal, cyclical time to an eternal framework.


“Milton’s Mutability”
Jonathan Sircy
Charleston Southern University
John Milton revises Spenser’s Two Cantos of Mutabilitie in the first two books of Paradise Lost. Specifically, Milton merges Spenser’s opposing pagan gods—Mutability and Jove—in his representation of Satan.

The change is best seen in the move from Jove’s “open force or council wise”—two ways of responding to the rebellious goddess Mutability—to Satan’s “open Warr or covert guile” as the two possible ways for his fellow demons to respond to God.

The paper speculates, but ultimately rejects, the argument that Milton revises Spenser for reasons related to England’s Irish colonial project.


The Early Modern Public Sphere Revisited: Consensus Politics as Usual?
Sponsor: Center for Early Modern Studies, University of Wisconsin–Madison
Organizer: Ullrich Langer, University of Wisconsin–Madison Chair: Paul Anthony Stevens, University of Toronto


“Poetry and the Pursuit of Consensus in Early Modern England: Skelton, Spenser, Milton”
Jason Peters
University of Toronto
What role should transcendence play in the secular public sphere? For most political philosophers since Hobbes, the answer is none, since public discourse aims for rational consensus and so cannot broach religious arguments that will be convincing only to people who have already accepted the dogmas in question. But the history of religious engagement in twentieth century American politics, from Martin Luther King Jr. to Fred Phelps, suggests that prophetic speech still shapes public opinion. In this essay I turn to three early modern poets—Skelton, Spenser, and Milton—in order to consider how they used prophetic poetry to establish, defend, or subvert consensus in an emerging public sphere. Their example provides a rich context for understanding why prophetic speech still has the power to compel when reason does not.


Rhyme, Repetition, and Scansion: Literary History and Form in Sidney, Spenser, and Shakespeare
Organizers: Lara Bovilsky, University of Oregon; Andrew Mattison, University of Toledo
Chair: J. K. Barret, University of Texas at Austin


“Who Brought This Rhyme About?”
Stephen Merriam Foley
Brown University
In returning the question mark to the invention of rhyme, let’s consider how rhyme is studied on the broken pipes of prosody. Richard Brown finds craft in Spenser’s rhyme, an embodied power of language that enchants and incriminates, exceeding mere will. Julian Lethbridge argues that Spenser suppresses rhyme to a willful blank, unbinding meaning from mere form. Lethbridge and Brown echo the sound/sense polarity that eternally confounds the study of rhyme. Let’s look to the effective nonsense of Skeltonics for the freedom that Spenser carries from the exploratory rhymes of The Shepheardes Calender into the discipline of the Faerie Queene stanza. Spenser’s rhyming of Skelton’s Colin with his own—who knows not Colin Clout?—is both the compulsive echo of pseudonym, which rhymes only with itself, and willful authorial intention. Like Skelton’s Colin, Spenser cannot help rhyming and he means to anyway.<


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


“‘But yet the end is not’: Making Affectively Present Pasts in The Faerie Queene
Melanie Lo
University of Colorado Boulder
Throughout The Faerie Queene, Spenser melds the overarching narrative of his knights’ quests with distinctly non-poetic forms such as chronicles, genealogies, and prophecy. In Britomart’s case, especially, her contact with these historical narratives becomes a bodily and affective encounter with a past that is not only viscerally present, but has also not yet happened. This paper examines Britomart’s somatic experiences of time as pleasurable and productive potential, in which the past becomes an opportunity that could be. Spenser represents the past, and one’s textual experience of it, as a presently rendered time-scape for action, and this hybrid temporality directly relates to his overall interest in the intersection of poetry and history as forms of world-making. Ultimately, this paper considers how The Faerie Queene’s depiction of encounters with historical time offers early modern readers an embodied experience of pastness in the present as a model for fulfillment and self-realization.


“Unsustainable Poetics and Historical Remainders in The Faerie Queene
Debapriya Sarkar
Hendrix College
Edmund Spenser’s “Letter to Raleigh” describes the “poet historical,” who “recoursing to the thinges forepaste, and diuining of things to come, maketh a pleasing Analysis of it all.” This description foregrounds The Faerie Queene’s polychronic poetics, where fictional worldmaking fractures historical time’s impulse to sustain stories of nationhood, sovereignty, genealogy. This paper attends to Spenser’s reliance on “But” as the linguistic generator of this unsustainable polychronicity: Arthur’s entry into the poetic world—complicated by his already-occurred death (“But when he dyde”)—and Merlin’s prophecy—stopping at the historical present, though we know “But yet the end is not”—exemplify how singular moments of narrative withdrawal remake historical temporality. Creating imaginative worlds that are not-yet-but-already-exist, the “But” is the reminder, and the remainder, of unsustainable events that rupture myths of preservation that seem stable, imitable, or even reusable across history and fiction.


“‘Need makes good schollers’: Spenser and the Poverty of Aesthetics”
Joel Michael Dodson
Southern Connecticut State University
This paper examines poverty as political aesthetics in Spenser’s verse, arguing that Glauce’s “need makes good schollers” (III.iii.53) in the 1590 FQ (revised in the 1596 edition) postulates a sustainable fiction of human need as making, or invention, at once acknowledged yet foreclosed by the “golden world” aims of the mimetic tradition. Spenser’s most recognizable “poesie” on poverty, “Plenty makes me poor,” occurs in Amoretti 35 as the imitative gaze which “cannot lyfe sustaine,” yet an alternate humanist strain, from Alciato’s emblems to Du Bellay’s Deffence, underwrites Glauce’s conceit of privation as spur to creation. Drawing on Christopher Pye and Jacques Rancière, I suggest that Book III grounds its interest in aesthetics in this conception of poetry and sustenance—one based not on the Messianic “as-not” (cf. Merlin III.iii.50; Agamben) of a more plentiful world to come, but on the innovative “as-if” Britomart’s exigency models in the present.


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


“Escaping Allegory: Mutability, Nature, and Spenser’s Poetics of Finitude”
Yulia Ryzhik
University of New Mexico
This paper examines Spenser’s allegory in terms of three enduring fictions: its narrative, which thrives on infinite iteration and deferral, its claim to truth based on a mythical system of infinite correspondences between macrocosm and microcosm, and finally Spenser’s commitment to this metaphysical notion of truth. This last, and greatest, fiction proves unsustainable in the later, increasingly satirical books of The Faerie Queene. Irony and historical topicality, both inherent in satire, limit allegorical polysemy and disrupt the narrative. This problem culminates in the confrontation between finitude and infinitude in the apocalyptic Mutability Cantos. Mutability, who invades the metaphysical realm and threatens to undermine the framework of Spenser’s allegory, is re-assimilated into allegory through Nature’s famous paradox, “thy decay thou seekst by thy desire.” Yet Nature, after pronouncing this judgment, vanishes out of allegory. This exchange, I argue, ironically locates the source of allegorical infinitude in the poet’s finite, physical world.


“Annotating Time: Spenser’s Shepheardes Calender, E.K., and Almanac Culture”
Emily Loney
University of Wisconsin–Madison
In this paper, I discuss Edmund Spenser’s Shepheardes Calender in the context of time, textual remaking, and the early modern almanac tradition. Positioning E. K.’s printed commentary for the poem alongside annotated almanacs from the same era, I argue that E. K.’s paratextual apparatus complicates the prescriptive ideology of the Shepheardes Calender proper. The E. K. annotations of Spenser’s poem gesture towards the tradition of almanac annotation but move the annotation outside the orderly spatial display of the calendar. Annotation allows interruption of normative calendrical time, but most almanac annotations conform to a careful spatiotemporal orderliness that positions annotations within a calendrical framework. Yet the printed Shepheardes Calender, as framed by E. K.’s annotations, becomes disordered. E. K. undermines the very naturalized temporal schema that the poem purports to display. In so doing, the text advances both a non-normative understanding of time and a participatory, revisory model of textual sustainability—one outside of the dictates of time’s progress and decay. This cooperative sustainability resonates, finally, with the queer time performed by the poem and its paratexts.


“Queering Chaste Time in Book III of the Faerie Queene
Stephen Kim
Cornell University
This paper seeks to understand Spenser’s project of making and sustaining a chaste fiction in Book III of the Faerie Queene. To sustain his chaste fiction, Spenser seems to punish instances of queer behavior because queerness encompasses what lies outside chastity—Malecasta is humiliated, Marinell is injured, and even Britomart is wounded in Castle Joyous. In the Garden of Adonis episode, however, queerness is left unpunished—yet how can queerness exist so unencumbered within a poem dedicated to chastity? I argue that the key is time. Spenser halts time in the Garden of Adonis episode, which renders null the imperative of sustaining a hereditary line through chastity. In other words, in stopping time, Spenser also queers it. With the bond between chastity and generation broken, queer behavior can exist within the atemporal space of the garden freely.


“The Poetics, Ethics, and Politics of Compost in Spenser’s Faerie Queene
Andrew M. Wadoski
Oklahoma State University
Spenser’s images of compost describe the ways human agency is sustained, shaped, and gives conceptual coherence by physical and temporal change. Spenser’s poetics, ethics, and politics—often read as standing at complex odds with one another—converge around the problem of rendering sustainable modes of life in the mutable world. Collectively, they seek forms of survival that not only accommodate, but paradoxically necessitate worldly processes of decay. Their intertwined creative endeavors of fiction-making, self-fashioning, and civilization-building reflect the gnomic injunction that vital forms must exist “eterne in mutability,” pursuing the common goal of flourishing forms of life contoured to worldly change. This account of rectified human agency as a mode of sustainability within change receives its fullest imagining in the “fruitful soil of old” animating the Gardens of Adonis. There, compost’s transformative work allegorizes poesis’s metaphysical underpinnings and moral imperatives, organizing the poem’s varied accounts of the good life between the escapist nostalgias offered by dead monuments on which present forms are built, and the seeming perils of the time-bound life. Extending the image beyond the poetic bounds of the Gardens of Adonis and into the critical agendas of the poem writ large, compost becomes a crucial metaphor for understanding human bodies’ political lives and the biological bases and imperatives of political action; poesis both shapes these poles and mediates their transactions.


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


“Colin’s Copemates in The Shepheardes Calender
Nathan Szymanski
Simon Fraser University
My paper proposes that the singing contest serves as a framing device through which to read Edmund Spenser’s The Shepheardes Calender, particularly in how the text brandishes its emulative hook (or hoof) toward its rarely considered English forebears in the eclogue, including published collections by Alexander Barclay and Barnabe Googe, translations by Abraham Fleming and George Turbervile, and manuscript eclogues by Sir Philip Sidney. Such a reading runs counter to the congenial, pastoral ethos of the shepherd community, but also to E.K.’s proclamation of the “new Poete” flying after his classical and continental literary forebears. In “August” and beyond, Spenser’s various contests position Colin and E.K. as copemates who, with linguistic games of “riddling” allusion and divergent commentary, deploy early modern models of aemulatio, not imitatio, among and against their shepherd competitors inhabiting the imagined landscapes of the English eclogue.


“Sustaining Chaucer: The Rhetoric of Continuity in Spenser’s Chaucerian Allusions”
Craig A. Berry
Independent Scholar
This paper joins recent conversations about Spenser’s Chaucerian interests by arguing that in two of his major allusions to Chaucer in The Faerie Queene, Spenser deploys a rhetoric of continuity that simultaneously preserves and glorifies Chaucer for a new audience while also providing a sustaining poetic model for Spenser’s own efforts. Whether alluding to the unlikely Tale of Sir Thopas in Book 1 of The Faerie Queene, or continuing the purportedly lost ending to The Squire’s Tale in Book 4, Spenser performs not merely an engagement with the past but an engagement with temporality itself. The cankerworme of time in all its forms, whether linguistic change, religious change, or stylistic and generic change, along with ample contemporary encouragement to follow different models, may make us wonder why Spenser went out of his way to identify himself with the English literary past at all, especially with the most lightweight, incomplete, and fanciful Chaucerian texts he could find. The determination to establish a continuity with an uncertain English past seems to go hand in hand with other challenges that he imposes on his characters, his readers, and himself: temporal and allegorical challenges in which reaching beyond the present moment is difficult but necessary to grow in virtue.


“Edmund Spenser and the Autonomy of Renaissance English”
Jamie Harmon Ferguson
University of Houston
Spenser’s exploration of the resources of archaic English depends on (1) the juxtaposition of English with its own history rather than with the classical languages and (2) the authority of English writers over their medium — two ideas that together express what Spenser means by “the kingdom of our own language.” Jonson’s suggestion that Spenser “writ no language” thus points to a disagreement about the autonomy of English from neo-classical standards. Richard Mulcaster anticipates Spenser’s sense of English autonomy in his Elementarie (1582): “the English tung hath in it self sufficient matter to work her own artificiall direction” (77). In his Saxon Treatise (1623), William Lisle writes that “our Poetes […] have done their part” in the development of a “plentifull,” non-Latinate English (e4). Spenser’s diction is an unusually systematic example of widespread efforts (both literary and religious) to assert the autonomy of English vis-à-vis foreign, especially Roman, influence.


The Verbal-Visual Development of Spenser’s Shepheardes Calender
Sponsor: Society for Emblem Studies
Organizers: Kenneth Borris, McGill University; Tamara A. Goeglein, Franklin & Marshall College
Chair: Carol Ann Johnston, Dickinson College 


“Colin’s Careful Hour: Virgilian Tragedy in the Januarye Woodcut”
David Adkins
University of Toronto
In a seminal article, Ruth Samson Luborsky proposed that the Januarye woodcut depicts the rota Virgilii and thereby announces Spenser’s ambition to leave behind pastoral for epic. More recently, critics have noted that Colin resembles the Meliboeus of Sebastian Brant’s woodcut for Eclogue 1. Developing the less optimistic interpretation, this paper argues that the image encompasses not the ambitious cursus of the Virgilian career but the tragic narrative arc of the Eclogues. Brant recycles the composition of his first woodcut for Eclogue 9, but transforms Tityrus’ lush locus amoenus into a barren landscape, wherein the dispossessed Moeris travels toward Rome. The bleak terrain of Januarye’s woodcut registers this transformation: like Brant’s ninth woodcut, it excludes important details from the original composition, such as Virgil’s singing pruner. Spenser’s woodcut substitutes visual for verbal privation: Colin assumes the posture not only of Meliboeus but Moeris, who has forgotten how to sing.


“The Integral Pictorialism of Spenser’s Shepheardes Calender
Kenneth Borris
McGill University
Whereas prior readings almost all attend little to the twelve pictures that illustrate each of the Calender’s monthly eclogues, these pictures include significant scenes that do not appear in the poetry, yet complement its concerns and profoundly affect its interpretation. But the Calender’s currently standard editions do not even reproduce its pictures with sufficient resolution to preserve their details. Analysis of the Aprill and Maye eclogues will show that there is much to be discovered about the symbolism of the Calender’s pictures, and that, as in emblem books, they are indispensable for understanding the Calender’s poetry as it appeared in all this book’s editions during Spenser’s life. Either the Calender should now be interpreted as a verbal-visual text wherein the Spenserian eclogue is itself verbal-visual, or scholars should start arguing (as to date they have not) that Spenser wholly lost control of his first major publication, his poetic debut.


“Citing, Sighting, and Siting Colin Clout: Ekphrastic Experimentation in Spenser’s Shepheardes Calender
Tamara A. Goeglein
Franklin & Marshall College
Spenser’s first two publications—A Theatre for Worldlings (1569) and The Shepheardes Calender (1579)—share in common, though not identically, verbal-visual structures and multiple voices. In the former, Petrarch, Marot, and du Bellay translated by a young Spenser join Van der Noot’s own poetry and prose, and these voices combine with Marcus Gheeraerts’ woodcut pictures. In the latter, Spenser as Immerito and possibly as E.K., echoes pastoral poets, classical commentators, and biblical writers, and all of these voices combine with woodcut pictures from three unknown graphic artists. Critics call the Theatre and the Calender “emblematic” and the “first” of England’s emblem books, and for good reasons. After 1579, however, the pictures vanish, and for good reasons. In the Calender, I will suggest Spenser experiments with citing, sighting, and siting Colin to exploit the conceptual limitations of verbal-visual texts and to develop an ekphrastic emblematics we “see” in his Faerie Queene.


Spenser: Faerie Queene and Amoretti
Organizer: Renaissance Society of America
Chair: John Walters, Indiana University


“Nature Lends a Hand: Baptism and English Holy Wells in The Faerie Queene
Sarah Smith
University of Virginia
Faerie Queene, Book I as one such strategy of representation. With the help of recent historical studies on Reformation attitudes toward the landscape, I explore the various theological implications of Spenser’s allusions to the holy well tradition. On the one hand, I argue, the historical association of holy wells with paganism and Catholicism threatens to undermine Spenser’s Protestant project. But on the other, by locating ritualistic and sacramental power in the land, Spenser is able to present a sacrament without an officiant, thus signaling that Redcrosse’s baptism is, as Protestants insisted it was, a free gift from God and not the “work” of humans.


“Una’s Dwarf and the ‘Religion Question’ in Book I of Spenser’s Faerie Queene
Catherine Gimelli Martin
University of Memphis
Una’s Dwarf has long been incorrectly identified as either practical reason or conscience, theories that make little sense given that she requires both after her Dwarf abandons her for the Redcrosse Knight at the very beginning of Book I. Yet the Dwarf does make important contributions not only to the Knight’s progress but also to Spenser’s implicit critique of  “disciplinary” Protestantism in the quest for Holinesse. Both as Una’s aid or guardian and Redcrosse’s squire, he provides useful warnings about the pitfalls awaiting them, but his literalistic understanding of these threats lacks any deep spiritual insight, almost parodying true guides such as Sir Guyon’s Palmer. This paper shows that the Dwarf is nevertheless not a false guide but rather a rigid catechist whose shortcomings in times of greatest need reveal Spenser’s subtle but sound critique of the limits of rigid rules or preachers. The Dwarf’s admonitions may support and strengthen his pupils’ acquired knowledge, but as Redcrosse clearly shows, they provide little or no help in combating the passions to which the Knight succumbs. Only infused or inspired knowledge can overcome these threats, but unlike Calvin, Spenser derives inspiration not directly from God’s irresistible grace or even from personal examination of conscience, but from the spiritual reeducation and very traditional sacraments received in the House of Holinesse. Thus pace Andrew Hadfield and other, earlier critics, Spenser’s position is proto-Arminian, not Calvinist, and his chief authority seems to be  Phillipp Melanchthon, a well-documented influence on the entire Sidney circle.


“‘That lothly uncouth sight’: Misogyny and Marital Justice in The Faerie Queene, Book 5”
Megan Herrold
University of Southern California
Perhaps the least admired Book in Spenser’s epic romance, The Book of Justice has traditionally been read in terms of failure—the list includes the failures of marriage, justice, allegory, and romance. But these and other failures, I contend, are exactly the point. I argue that through a series of failed marriage negotiations based on the English and Irish “loathly lady” genre, Spenser forges a model for marital and political stability that depends on its potential for failure. Spenser uses loathly lady figure to posit the ways gendered conventions of marriage plots—particularly the limits of masculinity, femininity, and misogyny—might be applied to foreign policy.


“The Spenserian Subjunctive: Rhetoric, Chastity, and Potentiality in The Amoretti
Paul Phelps
University of Alabama
Discussions of the subjunctive in Early Modern literature are scarce, and this despite the recent uptick in revisionist recuperations of formalism in particular and poetics in general. Shirley Sharon-Zisser (The Risks of Simile, 2000), suggests a possible rhetorical schema for the subjunctive in Early Modern verse, aligning the subjunctive with the similitive comparison. According to Sharon-Zisser, this alignment emphasizes the rhetorical use of a simile as a device of “likelihood and possibility,” one capable of expressing “the conjectural temporality of desire” (222) in a way that the definite and ontologic metaphor can not. “The Spenserian Subjunctive” addresses this pairing of poetics and grammatical moods in Spenser’s “Amoretti and Epithalamion” and argues that the existence of such a “subjunctive poetics” in Spenser informs Spenser’s theorizations about chastity, in particular about the ways in which representational language can both constitute chastity (as a state-of-being) and negotiate chastity (as an aspect of language, as a temporally-contingent experience). Close-readings are given for Amoretti 1, 15, and 64 as well as for Spenser’s rewriting of Amoretti 15 in the Epithalamion (Epithalamion 10).  The paper concludes by suggesting that Spenser’s reliance on similes (to construct hypotheses; to construct, qualify, and negotiate Elizabeth’s chastity; to complicate and obscure the temporal field of a sonnet) might be explained by his sense that properly subjunctive constructions (like metaphors) are linear and deterministic.    


The Body and Spiritual Experience II
Organizers: Victoria Brownlee, National University of Ireland, Galway; Adrian Streete, University of Glasgow
Chair: Adrian Streete, University of Glasgow


“Spenser’s Theologia Crucis and Bodily Pain”
Paul J. Stapleton
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
In Book One, Canto Ten of Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene the “godly, aged Sire” Contemplation instructs the Redcrosse Knight in “the way that does to heauen bownd.” This “way” is one that is described as a “painefull pilgrimage,” yet in the course of their conversation, Contemplation reveals that through such “paine,” the knight will attain his destiny as one of the chosen saints in the New Jerusalem. I argue that in Canto Eleven, Redcrosse effectively travels through the very same existential, somatic course as the deity. To put it another way, Redcrosse’s physical suffering allows him to follow in the footsteps of Christ, albeit typologically, according to what I identify as Spenser’s theologia crucis, a term first articulated by Martin Luther. 


English Chronicles and Histories
Organizer: Renaissance Society of America
Chair: Emily Mayne, University of Oxford

“The Fama of the Nation in Book 2 of Spenser’s Faerie Queene
Joseph Bowling
The Graduate Center, CUNY
Though the concept of fama has received critical attention in recent years, analyses of the idea in early modern England have been restricted, for the most part, to individuals. In this paper, I turn to writers concerned with constructing the fama of the nation. In doing so, I will propose two observations. First, that the same ambivalence of facticity accompanying the fama (or rumor/reputation) of the individual not only accompanies the fama of the nation, but also intersects with nation’s narration of its origins, i.e., as Livy articulates in the preface to book 1 of his Ab urbe condita. Second, that the fama of the nation includes within it an inherently internationally mimetic and competitive structure within Europe. Finally, this paper turns to book 2 of The Faerie Queene to analyze how Spenser articulates the fama of England in the book’s proem and the scene of Eumnestes’s library.


Sidney Circle II: Inside the Sidneys: Circulating Wills, Letters, and Desire
Sponsor: International Sidney Society
Organizer: Robert E. Stillman, University of Tennessee Chair: Bradley Davin Tuggle, University of Alabama


“Did Sidney Know Spenser? Evidence and Anecdote”
Jean R. Brink
Huntington Library
In 1988 S. K. Heninger, Jr. succinctly stated what has become the accepted view of relations between Sidney and Spenser: “although the opportunity for acquaintance existed, it can be only a surmise that Sidney and Spenser actually met. The historical evidence is sketchy at best. We can conclude with reasonable certainty that Spenser was in service with Leicester for at least a year before leaving for Ireland in July 1580” (10).[1]

This “certainty” that Spenser was in Leicester’s service in 1579 is based on the address, “Leicester House,” used by Spenser in his letter to Harvey dated 5 October 1579, but, oddly, Spenser’s reference in this very same letter to the “two worthy Gentlemen, Master Sidney, and Master Dyer” who “haue me … in some use of familiarity” is usually overlooked (G3v).  Everyone who has ever studied Sidney and Spenser, including Tim Heninger, has always wanted a meeting to have taken place between these two literary giants of the Elizabethan age, but perversely we have discounted the strong circumstantial evidence which exists. In this paper, I propose to sift below what evidence we have about the Sidney-Spenser connection. 


Transcendence, Figuration, Modernity: On Theology and the Arts in the Renaissance IV
Sponsor: Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program, University of Pittsburgh
Organizers: Ryan J. McDermott, University of Pittsburgh; Christopher James Nygren, University of Pittsburgh
Chair: Christopher James Nygren, University of Pittsburgh


“‘[A]s a sacred symbol it may dwell’: Edmund Spenser’s Postsecularity”
Hilary Binda
Tufts University
No longer invested in the synchronism of the doctrine of real presence, or in the icons and relics that purported to figure Christ, early modern humanists embraced absence in place of presence, providing a genealogical basis, I argue, for the elevation of past over present. Protestant theories of the Eucharist similarly revise the understanding of time that may be linked to the modern dichotomous relation between the historical and the literary. Spenser is among the poets of this period to challenge this ideological structure through his particular critique of Protestant allegoresis. I read this critique in the figure of “astonishment” repeated throughout the Faerie Queene. Using Benjamin’s “angel of history,” Eric Santner’s “postsecularity,” and Lee Edelman’s “queer” to read Ruddymane, the “bloodie babe,” I foreground this link between figuration and the interpretation of time as successive or monumental wherein the promise of the “past” anchors “futurity.”


[1] S. K. Heninger, Jr., Sidney and Spenser: The Poet as Maker, The Pennsylvania State UP, 1988, p. 10.


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"Conferences," Spenser Review 47.2.38 (Spring-Summer 2017). Accessed September 26th, 2018.
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