Wetlands and Spenser’s ‘personal curvature’
in Edmund Spenser and the romance of space
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This chapter borrows the term ‘personal curvature’, used by the historical geographer J.H. Andrews to describe ‘the subjective element in a cartographer’s linework’, in order to suggest that analogous distortions can be seen in writings by Spenser and other Englishmen to cross the Irish Sea. Focusing on the fifth and sixth books of The Faerie Queene and moments from a variety of contemporary prose texts, this chapter considers the textures of the Irish environment, its wandering coastlines and unstable wetlands, in order to display how the westward gaze of Spenser and his fellow literary strategists struggled to find a rhetoric of discovery that could also acknowledge the frustrations of partial and provisional knowledge. The chapter engages with the work of cultural and historical geographers as well as the important work done by Spenserians concerning the role that Ireland plays in Spenser’s literary work. Through its readings of moments in which terraqueous spaces are placed under particular pressure, the chapter offers an approach that blends postcolonial readings of Spenser’s work with recent directions in ecocriticism and the work of the environmental humanities.

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