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Hitt, Gretchen Morgan. “Embedded, Embodied, Envoiced: Contextualizing Complaint in Spenser, Shakespeare, and Mary Wroth.” Proquest Dissertations and Theses. University of Toronto (Canada), 2016.

This thesis investigates the complex interaction between early modern complaint and genres in which it embeds, including epic allegory, tragedy and prose romance. Most criticism treats the complaint as free-standing, but the interactions between genres provide insight into how complaint represents interior, affective experience that remains vitally interrelated with its environment. The Ovidian legacy of Heroides and Metamorphoses enables a complainant to create an inner, affective landscape that has a topographical counterpart in the narrative and engages the sympathy of an audience. The interaction between body and landscape is not just figurative: as the complainant speaks his/her voice resonates in the world, and the breath, tears and blood that the body produces imbue the landscape with affect. The complainant’s body is thus doubly embedded in the environment of the narrative and the genre in which the complaint interacts. Transactions on both levels situate complaint within its historical and cultural contexts, and contribute to its function as an integral part of a literary whole. In The Ruines of Time and Book II of The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spenser presents phenomenological challenges that explore the audiences’ vulnerability to spectacular emotional persuasions. Complaint is doubly inscribed as a scene of the futility of speech and of rhetorical success—a scene that William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus populates with legitimate attempts to inspire a change of heart that are met with overwhelming human violence, ultimately turning complaint into a weapon that reifies hegemonic power. In Countess of Montgomery’s Urania, Lady Mary Wroth’s complaints are both embodied and envoiced, positing important connections between speaking, the speaker’s aural experience of her own voice, and the ability to sympathize with others. All three of these authors activate complaint’s intertextual and generically diverse history each time a speaker uses the form, evoking meaningful expectations for this famously elastic genre.

Espie, Jeff. “Forms of Mediation: Chaucer, Spenser and English Literary History.” Proquest Dissertations and Theses. University of Toronto (Canada), 2016.

This dissertation argues that Spenser represents his relation to Chaucer as an unresolved dialectic between the desire for an intimate, immediate connection with him, and the recognition of the obstacles and enabling qualifications to it. Spenser’s version of English literary history is the product of a double vision which balances a linear genealogy of direct influence with a more circumlocutory sequence of indirect mediation. From one perspective, Spenser’s Chaucer is partner in an exclusive bond and uninterrupted dialogue: he is the friendly “maister” providing first-hand tutelage in his poetic craft; the fecund source promising a stream of inspired drops straight from his learned head; the Father of English poetry offering a privileged inheritance to his lineal descendant; the “well of English vndefyled” infusing his famous soul directly into Spenser’s body. But from the other, Chaucer is only one figure in a far less exclusive and far more polyvocal past: he is the Old Poet whose lessons are transmitted only after being refracted by his successor Lydgate and his contemporary Gower; the canonized literary sovereign whose learned head has been reconstructed by the politicized ideas of his Tudor readers; the adaptable model whose verse can be shaped by the intervening hermeneutic of Ovidian complaint; the printed auctor whose influence comes through the unauthorized and idiosyncratic texts of his sixteenth-century editors. The diverse components of this double vision mean that Spenser’s engagement with Chaucer extends well beyond Chaucer alone: the recursus to the Chaucerian fontes leads Spenser to swim in extra-Chaucerian waters. And in doing so, the New Poet fashions an English poetic tradition that is more capacious and erratic than scholarship has previously acknowledged. Chaucer and Spenser are at the center of English literary history, but their connection is also guided by people usually kept at the periphery of it.


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Cite as:

"Dissertations," Spenser Review 47.2.39 (Spring-Summer 2017). Accessed September 20th, 2018.
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