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Spenserian Allegory in Japan
by Yulia Ryzhik


This paper, presented as part of the panel ‘Spenser’s Afterlives II’ at the 2019 RSA meeting in Toronto, offers a brief account of recent developments in Japanese translation and criticism of Spenser, in the hope that a broader acknowledgment of Spenser studies in Japan will open exciting avenues for scholarly research and will be of interest to the early modernist community at large. My ongoing research on the topic is driven in part by my interest in allegory in contemporary Japanese media, which has been instrumental to my recent thinking on Spenser. Here, however, I focus on the literary translation of The Faerie Queene by Shohachi Fukuda (2016),[1] and the ways in which the rendering of Spenser’s allegory in a vastly different linguistic idiom can illuminate his allegorical methods.

Knowledge of Spenser first arrived in Japan through Kennosuke Araki’s translation from Chinese of the Abbreviated History of England (Igirisu kiryaku 紀略), where Spenser was mentioned alongside Shakespeare, Milton, and Dryden as a representative poet.[2] The first partial translation of The Faerie Queene was published in 1937, enabling academic study thereafter. Following the 1969 complete prose translation of The Faerie Queene by a team of seven scholars at Kumamoto University, the academic study of Spenser has increased steadily.[3] In his entry on the topic in the 1990 Spenser Encyclopedia Haruhiko Fujii noted that among several thousand scholars of English literature in Japan only 30 showed a sustained interest in Spenser, with a publication of only 5-10 books and articles per year, compared with about 1000 for English literature overall.[4] Nonetheless, in the past fifty years Japan has become one of the most prolific producers of scholarship on Spenser outside of English-speaking countries. We have seen glimpses of this productivity in the occasional English-language publication, summary notices in the Spenser Newsletter (now Spenser Review), and textual editing. The enormous labour of textual editing for the now standard edition of The Faerie Queene by A.C. Hamilton was undertaken by Hiroshi Yamashita and Toshiyuki Suzuki, who also collaborated with Masatsugu Matsuo and Haruo Sato on the 1990 Comprehensive Concordance to the 1590 Faerie Queene[5] (1215 pages and two floppy disks with searchable MS-DOS text files), an early forerunner to the Spenser Project Digital Archive at the University of Washington, St. Louis. By comparison, the most recent English concordance before this one was pre-digital, 1963. In addition to individual books and articles, the Spenser Society of Japan has produced two major collections of essays, the 1997 Spenser: the Prince of Poets (詩人の王スペンサー) and the 2006 Spenser, the Poet’s Poet (詩人の詩人スペンサー).[6]

In Japanese scholarship, topics of particular and continued interest include Spenser’s grammar, syntax, spelling and rhyme;[7] numerology, both in the shorter poems and in The Faerie Queene;[8] Spenser’s representations of love and of nature; and the interpretation of Spenser’s narrative structures, iconography, and allegorical meanings.[9] Politics and religion are less prominent, perhaps due to the greater cultural differences.[10] Episodes such as the Garden of Adonis, the Bower of Bliss, and the House of Busirane reliably attract attention.[11] The studies focused on allegorical meanings often describe Spenser’s allegorical method as a juxtaposition or as a union of binary opposites, a kind of discordia concors[12] – a term, curiously, more commonly applied in English criticism to the poetry of John Donne.

Until recently, allegory has not been considered a natural fit for Japanese literature or literary study. It is still fairly uncommon to find interpretations of pre-modern and early modern Japanese texts as allegories – let alone allegories that were conceived as such, let alone allegories that declared themselves as plainly as in Spenser’s Letter to Raleigh. Japanese words for allegory, gūi (寓意) or gūwa (寓話), and the western borrowing アレゴリー, mostly appear in scholarly titles concerning late nineteenth- and especially twentieth-century arts, whether literature, photography, cinema (including animation), or architecture.[13] This may, however, be a symptom and consequence of the essentialist tendencies in western views of Japanese literature and arts – and of East Asian arts more generally. In her comparative study on nostalgia and ideology in The Faerie Queene and The Tale of Genji, Masako Ono warns especially against the essentialism often inherent in genre criticism – and allegory surely falls under the same warning.[14]

There have certainly been challenges to the view of Japanese and East Asian literatures as essentially non-allegorical. Zhang Longxi makes a strong case for the importance of allegoresis in canonical Chinese literature and its commentaries, and by extension argues that allegory ‘can be translated not only linguistically but also conceptually across the gap of cultural differences’.[15] Susan Blakeley Klein notes the importance of allegorical interpretation of classical texts from the late Heian period (794-1185) in the Kamakura period (1185-1333). Through a systematic program of allegoresis, canonical secular texts such as Ise monogatari (Tales of Ise) and the first imperial poetry anthology (Kokin waka shū) came to be seen as esoteric Buddhist allegories and as pedagogical tools for the transmission of religious mysteries. Among the interpretive techniques (and this should sound familiar to any Spenserian) were numerology and etymology – often false or forced etymology – in which kanji, or Chinese characters, were taken apart and their components rearranged to extract a hidden meaning.[16] For an admittedly flippant example, I could take the first kanji of ‘Faerie’ in The Faerie Queene, 妖精の女王 (Yōsei no Joō): 妖, which means ‘attractive’ or ‘bewitching’. The kanji would resolve into 女 ‘woman’ and 天 ‘heaven’ to make another sign of the Faerie Queen within The Faerie Queene. (The left side of the kanji is the radical for ‘woman’, but while radicals sometimes partially suggest the meanings of kanji, this is not how they generally work.) Both these studies approach the question of allegory by way of allegoresis. Citing Angus Fletcher’s argument for the inseparability of the two modes, against Maureen Quilligan’s argument for their essential opposition, Klein posits that ‘[b]efore allegoresis can occur, there must already exist a few texts written as narrative allegories that the interpreter can cite as justification for this method’, to give ‘authority and legitimacy’ to allegorical commentary.[17] Both Klein and Longxi make a compelling case for the general presence, importance, and understanding of allegorical methods and practices in the respective literature and scholarship.

With this caveat in mind, I turn to the literary verse translation of The Faerie Queene into Japanese by Shohachi Fukuda (2016), which renders Spenser’s allegory in a vastly different language and within entirely different constraints of form. The Spenserian stanza is known as rather expansive, often relying on repetitions, expletives, and rhetorical dilation. These are salient qualities that, when imitated badly, led Alexander Pope to mock: ‘While expletives their feeble aid do join, / And ten low words oft creep in one dull line, / …/ A needless Alexandrine ends the song, / That, like a wounded snake, drags its slow length along’. Japanese, however, is an agglutinative language, which forms grammatical constructions through affixes, often several at a time to achieve the precise nuance and register. A typical line thus cannot accommodate as many words as English in the same number of syllables. ‘Syllables’ are counted differently as well (strictly speaking, Japanese counts not syllables but morae), requiring even greater compression if we are to preserve the same number. The evolution of the translation of The Faerie Queene has tended towards greater compression and brevity, in keeping with the metrical patterning of the original. The 1994 translation by Shohachi Fukuda and Yuichi Wada standardized the number of lines per stanza (nine) and limited the length of each line to 26 syllables.[18] These lines are still quite long, and patterns of versification are generally absent. Fukuda’s most recent, solo translation is entirely different. Each of the first eight lines of any given stanza is only twelve syllables long, and the alexandrine turns into fourteen syllables, following the traditional template of Japanese poetry.[19]

Japanese verse is not stress-timed, but based on syllabic patterns – again, keeping in mind that Japanese prosody counts not so much syllables as on (音, sounds), or morae. Many readers of The Spenser Review are surely familiar with the traditional cadence and syllable count of a haiku: 5-7-5. Combinations of 7-syllable and 5-syllable units form the basis of classical Japanese poetry and drama. Perhaps the most famous example of this pattern in English is Ezra Pound’s ‘In a Station of the Metro’: ‘The apparition of these faces in the crowd; / Petals on a wet, black bough.’ If we make a brief pause after ‘apparition’, the syllable count yields 5-7-7, resembling the last three lines of a tanka poem (5-7-5-7-7). In Fukuda’s translation, the first eight lines of the Spenserian stanza follow mostly a 7-5 format, sometimes 5-7, while the alexandrine is rendered as 7-7. As Toshiyuki Suzuki explains in his review, this brevity is achieved through strategic omissions (namely, of dispensable copulas, pronouns, and redundant epithets, which are sometimes relegated to footnotes), and through occasional choices of a plainer, more colloquial diction.[20] If some elements of Spenser’s verse can be considered dispensable or redundant in translation, the translation could also shed light on a complementary consideration: what details, in key allegorical moments, are most salient for the conveyance of signification? What is essential, and what is nonessential?

I begin with perhaps the most basic, the most essential unit for the conveyance of allegorical meaning in The Faerie Queene: Spenser’s names.[21] Fukuda uses several methods to translate the names, employing all three elements of the Japanese writing system. Names that are common nouns in English are translated directly into common nouns, typically written in kanji: Errour 迷妄 meimō (meaning something closer to ‘delusion’); the seven deadly sins in Lucifera’s pageant; Despair 絶望 zetsubō. There is no capitalization in Japanese, so Despair personified and ‘despair’ as a common noun are differentiated by context. This is not, however, the case with Disdain, whose name is also repeated as a verb: ‘Disdayne he called was, and did disdayne / To be so cald, and who so him did call’ (II.vii.41). To convey this repetition, Fukuda makes the noun for ‘Disdain’ (軽蔑) into a suru verb (する ‘to do’); many common nouns double as suru verbs in Japanese. But in the first instance, to designate the name, Fukuda uses furigana (a pronunciation aid, which transcribes difficult kanji into a syllabic script, printed in small letters alongside the main text) to transcribe the English ‘Disdain’ into katakana, the simplified script used for loan words and for transliteration of foreign words. In the second instance, we revert to the normal Japanese reading of the word, keibetsu, again as indicated by furigana – in hiragana this time, the regular Japanese script. Compound names that can be translated into common nouns are also rendered in kanji: Redcrosse Knight becomes 赤十字騎士, literally ‘red “ten character” knight’: the character for ‘ten’ resembles a cross. Proper names are transcribed into katakana and glossed in a note (Archimagoアーキメイゴー; Una ユーナ; Duessa デゥエッサ). The Sans brothers appear in katakana (サンズフォイ; サンズジョイ; サンズロイ). At times, especially in stanzas when two of the brothers are mentioned, and when the metre requires it, only their differentiating names are used: Foy, Joy. Their shared family name conveniently comes before their ‘given’ names, Japanese-style.

Japanese scholarship on The Faerie Queene – like much of western scholarship, including my own – often gravitates towards the allegorical episodes of Book III: the Gardens of Adonis, Venus’ looking-glass, and the House of Busirane.[22] Kazuso Ogoshi considers this latter episode as one in which Spenser’s poetic imagination is at its peak, and links Amoret’s sexual anxiety to a more generalized anxiety behind the harmonious vision of The Faerie Queene.[23]  I will examine two passages from Book III that, in my view, exemplify and epitomize Spenser’s allegorical methods at work, although working in opposite directions. The first is the transformation of Malbecco into the allegorical monster Jealousy. The second is the torture of Amoret, which ultimately lifts the imposition of allegorical meaning on an unwilling body.

I should mention, first of all, how much I admire the translation. The text is tight, rhythmic, clean, deftly mimicking some of Spenser’s sonic effects, and, astonishingly, managing to fit in almost every word from the original. For instance, all of Malbecco’s physiological changes from his diet of toads and frogs (III.x.59) are rendered precisely:

   Which in his cold complexion doe breed
   A filthy blood, or humour rancorous,
   Matter of doubt and dread suspitious,
   That doth with curelesse care consume the hart,
   Corrupts the stomacke with gall vitious,
   Croscuts the liuer with internall smart,
And doth transfixe the soule with deathes eternall dart.
Kore ga tsumetai ‖ taieki ni
urami kishitsu no ‖ yogore chi to
giwaku ginen no ‖ sozai umi
shintsū de ‖ shinzō mushibami
nigai tanjū  ‖ i wo biran
tainai-tsū de ‖ kimo wo saki
shi no tome no ya de ‖ tamashii wo sasu.[24]

Note the alliterations of the somewhat redundant ‘doubt and dread suspitious’ (giwaku ginen, beginning with the same kanji 疑, ‘doubt’) and of ‘curelesse care’: ‘curelesse’ is omitted in translation, but shintsū (‘care, worry, heartache’) and shinzō (‘heart’) convey both the sound repetition and the sense of redundancy, also beginning with the same kanji 心, ‘heart’. The list of Malbecco’s pursuers – ‘[g]riefe, and despight, and gealosy, and scorne’ (III.x.55) – are all included, and this instance of ‘gealosy’ is the same as his final allegorical name, 嫉妬 shitto. Some of the omissions are precisely the repetitions that allowed Spenser’s stanza to expand, such as the polysyndeton ‘and’ or the two occurrences of ‘long’ [anguish] and ‘so long’ [did crawl] in stanza 57: no more dragging a slow length along. In stanza 54, ‘extreme fury’ and ‘quite mad’ omit the qualifiers, just as ‘Trompart bace’ and his ‘maister bad’ omit the adjectives: these things go without saying. In stanza 55 we miss Malbecco’s ‘nimble feet’, as earlier we missed the comic doubling of ‘ran away, ran with him selfe away’, but we are treated instead to an onomatopoeic doubling, representing his scurrying flight: nige ni nige, ‘fleeing, fleeing’. The alexandrine of stanza 58 gives us the great quadruple alliteration: ‘The roring billowes beat his bowre so boystrously’. It is reproduced in Japanese with alliteration and consonance, Hageshiki harō ‖ haoku wo hataku (7-7), and in one case Fukuda uses an alternate kanji reading (indicated by furigana) to achieve this effect.

What interests me most are those omissions that subtly, but I think significantly, soften our perception of Malbecco and lift some of the harsh judgment that Spenser’s narrator imposes on him. While we miss Malbecco’s ‘wounded’ mind, Fukuda also omits his ‘shame’ in being forlorn of womankind. Other notable changes include the craggy cliff from which Malbecco throws himself: Spenser describes Malbecco’s ‘fore-damned spright’ and notes that there seemed ‘no help for him was left in liuing sight’. Malbecco may not die, Spenser suggests, but his spirit is fore-damned. Fukuda skips the predestined condemnation, and makes Malbecco’s situation more desperate: Mohaya tasukaru ‖ mikomi wa kaimu, ‘already hope of help was nil’. Malbecco’s final transformation is occasioned by ‘griefe’ and ‘horrour’ – omitting the respective adjectives, ‘priuy griefe and horrour vaine’ – and while in English Malbecco is ‘woxen so deform’d’, in Japanese his form merely ‘changes’, sugata wa kawari. Finally, the famous line ‘Forgot he was a man and Gelosy is hight’ is rendered a little more ambiguously. Ningen no / mi wo wasurehate. Forgot he was a man. Ningen means ‘human’. But the first character in the last line, mi (身) could mean multiple things: body; oneself; one’s place or position. What kind of transformation is it? Has Malbecco forgotten his human body? his human self? or merely his human place? These subtle differences may have significant implications for Spenser’s moral allegory and for the precise nature of allegorical figuration.

A similar pattern occurs in the account of Amoret’s torture in the Masque of Cupid (III.xii.19-22). Omitted epithets served mainly to intensify the contrast of Amoret’s beauty, purity, and nobility against her torturers’ power and cruelty.

After all these there marcht a most faire Dame,
   Led of two grysie villeins, th’one Despight,
   The other cleped Cruelty by name:
   She dolefull Lady, like a dreary Spright,
   Cald by strong charmes out of eternall night,
   Had Deathes owne ymage figurd in her face,
   Full of sad signes, fearfull to liuing sight,
   Yet in that horror shewd a seemely grace,
And with her feeble feete did moue a comely pace. (FQ III.xii.19)

‘Grysie’ villeins; ‘strong’ charms; ‘dreary’ spright called ‘out of eternall night’; her seemly grace is seen through ‘horror’. Later on, we miss ‘nett’ from ‘nett ivory’; ‘bright’; ‘dew honour’; ‘snowy’; ‘trembling’ for Amoret; ‘deep’ from ‘entrenched deep’; ‘accursed’ (knife), ‘rauenous’ (lion); ‘kingdome tyrannous’ (of Cupid). These necessary compressions in translation in no way diminish the horror of the scene. There is no question that Amoret is to be pitied, and that her torturers are monsters. There are also a few admirable intensifications: Amoret’s wound becomes not ‘wide’ but ‘gaping’ (pakkuri ぱっくり); ‘despoyled quight’ becomes more violent, with Amoret’s adornments ‘torn off’ from her (hagitorare はぎ取られ). And just as in Malbecco’s transformation, there is an element that seems to be rendered more mysterious. Spenser tips his hand when he says that ‘Deathes owne ymage’ is ‘figurd’ in Amoret’s face, ‘Full of sad signes, fearfull to liuing sight’: ‘ymage’, ‘figurd’, and ‘signes’ invite the reader to interpret Amoret figuratively and to participate in the violent imposition of meaning on Amoret’s body.[25] Fukuda describes Amoret’s face as shinigami sanagara 死神さながら, ‘just like a shinigami’. The comparison probably includes in itself ‘fearfull to liuing sight’, as shinigami (literally ‘death gods’) are fearsome beings. In modern Japanese, shinigami can mean Death personified, a meaning influenced by western conceptions of such a deity. The term itself is relatively modern, although demons and deities associated with death and the underworld exist in both Buddhist and Shinto mythology. Shinigami are malevolent spirits that induce living humans to want to die, sometimes through demonic possession.[26] The comparison of Amoret’s face to Death is more direct and startling in Japanese. We do not have the distancing effect of ‘ymage’ or ‘figurd’, and are not told to read Amoret’s face for ‘sad signes’ (in translation, these become ‘cruel sorrows visible to the eye’, mugoi hitan ga ‖ me ni mieru). The hermeneutic response is left up to the reader. There is an enigmatic energy in this comparison: if Amoret’s face is ‘just like a death god’, does she, perhaps, put on both the knowledge and the power before she is rescued by Britomart?

I want to reiterate that Fukuda’s translation is astonishing in its clarity and completeness; it won the Japan Translation Award for best translation in 2016. It is also, I think, instructive for our reading of Spenser’s allegory, in that it makes one wonder to what extent we should hang on to absolutely every word. As the oft-told joke goes, in ‘A Gentle Knight was pricking on the plaine’ the only words that do not need glossing are ‘a’ and ‘the’. Does that mean we need to gloss and interpret ‘was’ or ‘on’? What is essential and what is not? Tracking the occasionally necessary compressions and distillations of Spenser’s text in translation reveals the extent to which Spenser over-explains his allegory at times, directing the reader exactly how to react to a particular scene, although we as scholars can also recognize Spenser’s indirection and misdirection. The two instances I have discussed of an allegorical element becoming more mysterious and interesting in translation suggest to me that the translation achieves something of the quality both of classical Japanese poetry and of Spenser’s original. As Toshiyuki Suzuki explains, the versatile yet extremely constrained form of the haiku requires ‘plain vocabulary’ and ‘economy of language’, with no room for ‘excessive explanation’. The details are ‘left to the reader’s imagination’.[27] It would seem, then, that through strategic ellipses Fukuda has rendered Spenser’s allegory more allegorical, not less.

Spenser still lags far behind Shakespeare and Milton in exposure to the general public and influence on Japanese literary writers.[28] Although student and paperback editions of his works are becoming more widely available, and Fukuda’s translation of The Faerie Queene is set to be reprinted in paperback, interest in Spenser may still be limited to academia.[29] This is not, however, the case with allegory. Western-style allegory has an increasing presence in Japanese literature, popular culture, and contemporary media, including manga and anime. (Dante’s Commedia has a firmly established presence, and I, for one, can hardly wait for anime creators to discover Spenser.) In one of his late essays Angus Fletcher speaks of an ‘allegory without ideas’, an annihilation of allegory as we know it in favour of scattered attention and multiple, often jaded perspectives, a sociopolitical sphere in which allegory is everywhere and nowhere at the same time.[30] His essay evokes a levelling of allegorical planes – precisely the kind of levelling and flattening that is prominent in theories of anime.[31] All this is to suggest that examinations of allegory in unfamiliar contexts and media can be remarkably illuminating for our understanding of Spenser, just as a translation into a radically different language and verse form can shed new light on a familiar text. For the present, we can rejoice in the beauty and elegance of this new Japanese translation, and continue to build stronger connections with our fellow Spenserians beyond the English-speaking world.

Yulia Ryzhik

University of Toronto Scarborough

[1] Edmund Spenser, Yōsei no Joō (The Japanese Verse Translation of ‘The Faerie Queene’), 2 vols., trans. Shohachi Fukuda (Fukuoka: Kyushu University Press, 2016). I follow the English convention of rendering Japanese names, with the given name first; macrons indicating long vowels are for the most part omitted in names, but included in quoted text and titles.

[2] Haruhiko Fujii, ‘Japan, influence and reputation in’, The Spenser Encyclopedia, ed. A.C. Hamilton et al (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990), 409-10. Kennosuke Araki, trans. Igirisu Kiryaku [The Abbreviated History of England] by Chen Feng-heng (Tokyo: Izumiya Zenbe, 1853).

[3] Yuichi Wada, ed., Yōsei no Joō (The Faerie Queene), trans. Kumamoto University Spenser Circle (Tokyo: Bunri Shoin, 1969).

[4] Fujii, ‘Japan’, Spenser Encyclopedia.

[5] A Comprehensive Concordance to ‘The Faerie Queene’ 1590, eds. Hiroshi Yamashita, Masatsugu Matsuo, Toshiyuki Suzuki, and Haruo Sato. ‘To Our Readers’, The Spenser Newsletter 22.1 (Winter 1991), 91.01.

[6] Shijin no ō Spenser, eds. Shohachi Fukuda and Susumu Kawanishi (Fukuoka: Kyushu University Press, 1997); Shijin no shijin Spenser, ed. Spenser Society of Japan (Fukuoka: Kyushu University Press, 2006). See The Spenser Newsletter 28.3 (Fall 1997): 4-5 (97.141) and Toshiyuki Suzuki, ‘Spenser Studies in Japan, 2011 to 2013’, The Spenser Review 43.3.67 (Winter 2014),

[7] See especially Toshiyuki Suzuki, ‘The Influence of Rhymes on the Compositors of The Faerie Queene (1590)’, Kinjō Gakuin University Studies in English and American Literature [Kinjō gakuin daigaku ronshū eibei hen] 23 (1981): 79-94; ‘The Spelling of the Rhymes in the 1590 Quarto of The Faerie Queene’, Kinjō Gakuin University Studies in English and American Literature [Kinjō gakuin daigaku ronshū eibei hen] 24 (1983): 83-100; ‘Irregular Visual Rhymes in The Faerie Queene, Part I (Books I-III)’, Kinjō Gakuin University Studies in English and American Literature [Kinjō gakuin daigaku ronshū eibei hen] 34 (1993): 61-80; ‘The Spellings of Rhymes in The Faerie Queene’, in Shijin no ō Spenser, 301-20; ‘The Punctuation of The Faerie Queene Reconsidered’, Kinjō Gakuin University Studies in English and American Literature [Kinjō gakuin daigaku ronshū eibei hen] 40 (1999): 151-71.

[8] See especially Shohachi Fukuda, ‘The Numerological Patterning of Amoretti and Epithalamion’, Spenser Studies 9 (1988): 33-48; ‘The Numerological Patterning of The Faerie Queene I-III’, Spenser Studies 19 (2004): 37-63; ‘The Numerological Patterning of the Mutabilitie Cantos’, Notes and Queries 50.1 [248], (Mar 2003): 18-20; ‘Supensā no ‘Shukukonka’ to kakusareta kazu’ [Spenser’s Epithalamion and Hidden Numbers], Eigo Seinen (The Rising Generation) 1406 (Sep 1994): 270-74.

[9] Haruhiko Fujii, ‘Forming/De-Forming the Structure in The Faerie Queene’, Eigo Seinen (The Rising Generation) 135.12 (March 1990): 574-78, abstracted in The Spenser Newsletter 22.1 (Winter 1991): 14 (91.11); Yasunari Takada, ‘Looking over The Faerie Queene or Spenser “Dis-in-ludens”’ Tōhoku University Faculty of Letters Research Annual Report 33 (1984): 190-244, abstracted in Fujii, ‘Spenser in Japan’, 18. Kayoko Adachi, ‘On a Fissure in the Allegorical World of Book I of The Faerie Queene’, Osaka Literary Review 40 (2002): 1-18 and ‘The Successor of St. George: Chivalric Ideal and Its Failure in The Faerie Queene’, Osaka Literary Review 42 (2003): 1-16.

[10] Fujii, ‘Japan’, Spenser Encyclopedia. However, see Harumi Takemura, ‘“Whilest louing thou mayst loued be with equall crime”?: The Faerie Queene and the Protestant Construction of Adulterous Female Bodies’, Journal of Foreign Languages of Himeji Dokkyō University 14 (2001): 149-69 and ‘Restoring the Disfigured Saint: Spenser’s Red Cross Knight’, in Shijin no shijin Spenser, 21-34; Yoko Aruji, ‘Patronage and the Belphoebe-Timias Episodes in The Faerie Queene Book III and Book IV’, Bulletin of Tokyo Gakugei University Second Division Humanities 42 (1991): 72-96.

[11] See especially the work of Yoko Odawara; several essays cited below.

[12] ‘Spenser in Japan: Signs and Portents’, Spenser Newsletter 14.1 (Winter 1983): 20-22 (83.29-83.32); 23 (83.35); Haruhiko Fujii, ‘Spenser in Japan’, Spenser Newsletter 16.1 (Winter 1985): 16-19 (85.30) and ‘Juxtaposition of Ideas in The Faerie Queene’, Poetry and Drama in the Age of Shakespeare: Essays in Honour of Prof Shonosuke Ishii’s Seventieth Birthday, ed. Peter Milward and Tetsuo Anzai (Sophia University Renaissance Research Institute, 1982), 72-83; Mihoko Suzuki, Metamorphoses of Helen: Authority, Difference, and the Epic (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1989), 159-60 and ‘‘Unfitly Yokt Together in One Teeme’: Vergil and Ovid in Faerie Queene, III.ix’, English Literary Renaissance 17.2 (Spring 1987): 172-85; Taiji Hirakawa, ‘The Faerie Queene’s Britomart and discordia concors’ [Yōsei no Joō no Britomart to chōwa shita fuchōwa「妖精の女王」のブリトマートと「調和した不調和」], Shikai 16 (1974): 1-17.

[13] For a few examples: Jonathan M. Reynolds, Allegories of Time and Space: Japanese Identity in Photography and Architecture (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2015); Akshaya Kumar, ‘Landscape, Allegory, and Historical Trauma in Postwar Japanese Cinema: Recapitulating Existential Horror in Onibaba (1964) and Woman in the Dunes (1964)’, Asian Cinema 22.2 (Spring 2011): 364-380; Linda Hoaglund, ‘Battle Royale: Kinji Fukasaku’s Cautionary Allegory’, Persimmon: Asian Literature, Arts, and Culture 2.3 (Winter 2002): 48-55; Jonathan E. Abel, ‘Masked Justice: Allegories of the Superhero in Cold War Japan’, Japan Forum 26.2 (2014): 187-208; Ikuho Amano, ‘From Mourning to Allegory: Post-3.11 Space Battleship Yamato in Motion’, Japan Forum 26.3 (2014): 325-339; Amanda Landa, ‘Mechanized Bodies of Adolescence: Weaponized Children, National Allegory and Japanese Anime’, Red Feather Journal 3.2 (Fall 2012): 16-33; Hiroshi Nishitaya, Katari Gūi Ideorogī [Narration, Allegory, Ideology] (Tōkyō: Kanrin Shobō, 2000); Shōji Hidaka, Senryō kūkan no naka no bungaku : konseki, gūi, sai [Literature Within an Occupied Space: Traces, Symbols, Difference] (Tōkyō: Kabushiki Kaisha Iwanami Shoten, 2015); Hideyo Sengoku, Kojima Nobuo: anji no bungaku, kobusuru gūwa [Nobuo Kojima: Literature of Suggestion, Inspiring Allegories] (Tōkyō: Sairyūsha, 2006); Naoki Kasuga, Dazai Osamu o bunka jinruigakusha ga yomu : aregorī to shite no bunka [Osamu Dazai read by cultural anthropologists: culture as allegory] (Tōkyō: Shin yōsha, 1998).

[14] Masako Ōno, Claims for Higher Narrative in ‘The Tale of Genji’ and ‘The Faerie Queene’ (dissertation, Princeton University, 2003), 2, 10, 12; published as Nosutarujia toshite no bungaku, ideorogī toshite no bunka: Yōsei no Joō to Genji Monogatari romansu to monogatari [Literature as Nostalgia, Culture as Ideology: ‘The Faerie Queene’ andThe Tale of Genji’, Romance and Tale] (Tokyo: 2006).

[15] Zhang Longxi, Allegoresis: Reading Canonical Literature East and West (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2005), 2, 63-4, 86-7.

[16] Susan Blakeley Klein, Allegories of Desire: Esoteric Literary Commentaries of Medieval Japan (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; Harvard University Asia Center, 2002), 1-6, 8-10, 14-22.

[17] Klein, 20. Angus Fletcher, ‘Allegory in Literary History’ in Dictionary of the History of Ideas, ed. Philip Weiner (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1973), 1:41-8; Maureen Quilligan, The Language of Allegory: Defining the Genre (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1979), 30-3.

[18] Yōsei no Joō (The Faerie Queene), trans. Yuichi Wada and Shohachi Fukuda (Tokyo: Chikuma-shobo, 1994); Shohachi Fukuda, ‘Spenser in Japan 1985-1995’, The Spenser Newsletter 27.1 (Winter 1996): 19-22 (96.25); Toshiyuki Suzuki, ‘The Faerie Queene in Japanese Verse’, The Spenser Review 48.1.6 (Winter 2018),

[19] Suzuki, ‘FQ in Japanese Verse’.

[20] Ibid.

[21] I am grateful to Susanne Wofford for raising the question of Spenser’s names in the Q&A. Klein (16) cites polysemic word play and puns on proper names, place-names, personifications, and emblems as shared features of allegory in European and Japanese texts.

[22] Yoko Odawara, ‘An Essay on the House of Busyrane’, Chukyo University Bulletin of the Faculty of Liberal Arts 30.2 (1989): 147-63; ‘The Birth Mythology Concerning Belphoebe and Amoret’, in Shijin no shijin Spenser, 55-66; Kayoko Adachi, ‘The Hermaphrodite Cancelled: The Narrator’s Counterargument in The Faerie Queene’, Studies in English Literature (Tokyo; English Literary Society of Japan) 47 (2006): 23-44; Taiji Hirakawa, Spenser and Milton: From Contemplation to Practice [Spenser to Milton: kanjō kara jissen e] (Kyoto, 1988). See also Fukuda, ‘Spenser in Japan 1985-1995’.

[23] Kazuso Ogoshi, chapters on Renaissance poetry in A History of English and American Literature (Tokyo: Taishukan Shoten, 1977), abstracted in Fujii, ‘Spenser in Japan’ (1985): 18.

[24] Following Toshiyuki Suzuki’s example, I am adding the double vertical bar to indicate metrical caesurae within the lines.

[25] See Gordon Teskey, Allegory and Violence (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996), 18-19.

[26] See Dōei Ooguri, Zusetsu rishukyō nyūmon: mikkyō no kakushin [Illustrated Introduction to the Rishu-kyō: the core of Esoteric Buddhism] (Tokyo: Suzuki Shuppan, 1997), 101. The term shinigami ‘seems not to be common’ in classical Japanese literature. It appears in the 1841 Ehon Hyaku Monogatari (Picture Book of 100 Stories) as a malevolent spirit rather than a deity who governs human life and death. Acting in concert with a living person’s ill intent, the spirit can cause repeated incidents of murder or suicide to occur in the same spot. It is described as a ‘possessing spirit’, or tsukimono (憑き物), a type of yōkai, spirit or demon. ‘Shinigami’, Kenji Murakami (ed.) and Shigeru Mizuki (illustr.), Nihon yōkai daijiten [Comprehensive Dictionary of Japanese Yōkai] (Tokyo: Kadokawa Shoten, 2005), 166-7. See also W. Michael Kelsey, ‘The Raging Deity in Japanese Mythology’, Asian Folklore Studies 40.2 (1981): 213-36.

[27] Suzuki, ‘FQ in Japanese Verse’.

[28] Fujii, ‘Japan’, Spenser Encyclopedia.

[29] Yuichi Wada and Shohachi Fukuda, updated translation of FQ, 1994; another revised edition (4-vol. paperback) in 2005; Edmund Spenser, Yōsei no Joō Meibamen (Faerie Queene: Selected Cantos; lit. ‘famous scenes’), trans. Shohachi Fukuda (Tokyo: Bungeisha, 2013).

[30] Angus Fletcher, ‘Allegory without Ideas’, in Thinking Allegory Otherwise, ed. Brenda Machosky (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2010), 9-33.

[31] Thomas LaMarre, The Anime Machine: A Media Theory of Animation (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009).


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Yulia Ryzhik, "Spenserian Allegory in Japan," Spenser Review 49.2.2 (Spring-Summer 2019). Accessed April 14th, 2024.
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