‘New matter framed upon the old’
Chaucer, Spenser and Luke Shepherd’s ‘New Poet’
in Rereading Chaucer and Spenser
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This chapter contends that Spenser’s play on the tension between old and new in his Shepherdes Calender (1579), and its construction of Geoffrey Chaucer as both a canonical forefather and a byword for subversion, may be productively set in dialogue with the rudderless ‘new poet’ sent up by the gospeller Luke Shepherd’s satire Philogamus (1548). What did it mean for Spenser to be introduced as a ‘new poet’ in the late sixteenth century? How did current conceptions of literary change and continuity shape the significance of the epithet for Spenser’s first readers, and what particular discourses did its deployment activate? By considering the broad range of novelty’s contemporary connotations, the chapter suggests how the Tudor reinterpretation of Chaucer’s legacy informs further facets of Spenser’s engagement with the idea of newness, beyond the dynamic of literary influence and innovation. Religious reforms had invested ‘novelty’ with confessional significance, while new poetry represented a challenge to textual authorities from established religious doctrines to the nascent vernacular canon to historical truth. This chapter shows Spenser navigating this contested landscape in a guise redolent of Shepherd’s literary fool, to effect the instigation of a complex, layered authorial identity.

Rereading Chaucer and Spenser

Dan Geffrey with the New Poete

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