Victoria Coldham-Fussell
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Spenser and the comic Renaissance
in Comic Spenser
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This chapter moves Spenser to the centre of the comic Renaissance. It documents the wealth of influences operating together during the Elizabethan period, and engages with the wider Spenser canon in order to demonstrate the breadth of his engagement with, and contribution to, comic literary culture. This survey emphasises the period’s humanist preoccupation with linguistic play and wit; its ‘rediscovery’ of classical authors such as Lucian, Apuleius, and Ovid; and its love of jestbooks and mock-encomia. It also represents medieval traditions of humour, both secular and religious, as typified by the semi-parodic chivalric romance tradition and the comic dimensions of religious drama. Erasmus’s Praise of Folly is considered for its profound and influential fusion of medieval and humanist traditions. The energy of the Elizabethan period’s comic literary culture is contextualised by entrenched patterns of hostility to humour and laughter and the intensification of these after the Reformation. The humour of The Faerie Queene – a national epic with canonical aspirations – emerges as both typical of the period’s generic freedoms and notably provocative.

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Comic Spenser

Faith, folly, and ‘The Faerie Queene’


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