The art of The Faerie Queene

Richard Danson Brown
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The Art of The Faerie Queene is the first book centrally focused on the forms and poetic techniques employed by Spenser. Though much scholarly attention in recent years has been on the relationships between Spenser’s poetry and political and colonial history, the place of his epic in literary history has received less attention. This book aims to rectify that by re-reading The Faerie Queene as poetry which is at once absorbing, demanding, and experimental. The Spenser explored here ingeniously uses the tricks of his poetic style to amplify his symbolic agendas and to deepen the reading experience.

One of the book’s particular originalities is the way in which it reframes Spenser’s place in literary history. As opposed to the stylistic conservatism diagnosed by previous generations of scholars, The Art of The Faerie Queene presents the poem as more radical, more edgy, and less conventional, particularly as it appeared to Spenser’s first readers. As such, the book proposes new ways of understanding the Elizabethan poetic Renaissance and the ways in which Spenser is best understood in terms of literary history.

The book progresses from the choice of individual words through to questions of metre, rhyme, and stanza form up to the larger structures of canto, book, and the incomplete yet massive poem itself. It will be of particular relevance to undergraduates studying Elizabethan poetry, graduate students, and scholars of Renaissance poetry, for whom the formal aspect of the poetry has been a topic of growing relevance.

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‘Brown’s magisterial monograph revises traditionalist views of Spenser and his place in the literary canon, instead placing him at the forefront of new literary trends and developments.
Maik Goth, Ruhr-Universitat Bochum
The Review of English Studies

‘Brown (Open Univ.) analyzes the poetic techniques Spenser used in the creation of his epic poem The Faerie Queene. Working systematically, Brown begins with a consideration of the poem’s diction and the way in which Spenser’s choice of words affects the reader. He then proceeds to an examination of lineation and meter, and then to a discussion of Spenser’s rhymes. The final three chapters tackle progressively larger poetic units: the construction of the individual stanza, the ways in which cantos work and network together, and the narrative technique of the individual book.
B. E. Brandt, emeritus, South Dakota State University

‘The Art is organized in a pleasing crescendo, working upwards chapter by chapter from words, to lines, to rhyme groups, to stanzas, cantos, and finally the whole poem. At all levels, it proceeds not by deductions from the allegory, but by induction from linguistic patterns, and Brown’s ambition is to refresh our reading by close attention to considerations of style … Brown’s work with Lethbridge on the Concordance has meant that he can never unhear the desultory iambic shuffle of the stanza going through its courteous motions. But he has remained alert to those moments – and they are so many; and from reading to reading, are they ever the same moments twice? – when mere half-hearted ceremony quickens into revelation. That effect is a distinctive art of The Faerie Queene, to which his book is now our best guide.
The Spenser Review

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