The source of poetry
Pernaso, Paradise and Spenser’s Chaucerian craft
in Rereading Chaucer and Spenser
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The June eclogue of The Shepheardes Calender is famous for its homage to Chaucer, marking Spenser’s thinking about his project of making poetry in relation to an English literary past. This chapter explores the insights ‘June’ offers into the role Chaucer played in Spenser’s poetic ambitions by examining the spatialised poetics of ‘June’ alongside Chaucer’s Franklin’s Tale. Both poems stipulate a similar setting for the main character’s predicament: a locus amoenus described in terms of Paradise. In each case a despairing emotional state prevents the character from experiencing the joys of the paradisal space; each poem links this situation to a spatialised account of poetic making that locates literary failure, inspiration and achievement within its imagined geography. The chapter investigates resonances between the two poems (and A Theatre for Worldlings) and their implications for Spenser’s Chaucerian poetics. Staging a character’s isolation from the ultimately pleasant place serves to highlight problems associated with poetic inheritance and ambition and to frame the solutions both poems contemplate – including access to the Muses’ Parnassus and the fountain of Helicon. For Spenser, importing classical and Christian images of paradise into the landscape of English poetry seems to require a series of moves amounting to colonisation.

Rereading Chaucer and Spenser

Dan Geffrey with the New Poete


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