Uncommon lines
Lineation and metre
in The art of The Faerie Queene
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This chapter argues that literary historians have underestimated the extent of Spenser’s radicalism, particularly in terms of the related phenomena of line and metre. The chapter begins with an exploration of the role played by such features in literary history, arguing that change in poetic fashion is not best understood through the evolutionary metaphors advanced by previous scholars. It then surveys a broad range of contexts for the verse of The Faerie Queene in English, including work by Tusser, Skelton, Phaer and Churchyard. Spenser’s verse emerges from this work as assimilative and flexible in its relationship to tradition, adapting and adopting old forms but almost invariably with an experimental twist. This aspect is underscored by comparisons with later poets.


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