Mimi Ensley
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Reviving and restoring Chaucer’s Squire’s Tale
in Difficult pasts
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This chapter takes on the metaphor of the ‘monument’ and turns from anonymous romance texts to those composed by named authors, in particular by Geoffrey Chaucer. As a metaphor, the monument highlights curated longevity as resistance to erasure. Monuments are crafted in the present to ensure the long-term memory of a particular version of the past. Thus, when he invokes Chaucer’s Squire’s Tale in Book IV of his Faerie Queene, Edmund Spenser defines Chaucer’s work as a ‘monument’, albeit one defaced by time. The idea of the monument, then, is bound up with the idea of the ruin. Thus, Spenser presents Chaucer as a monumental ruin, one upon which he can build for future audiences. Importantly, he does not seek to erase Chaucer, but he highlights Chaucer’s incompleteness. This chapter compares Spenser’s treatment of the Squire’s Tale with a less well-known seventeenth-century Squire’s Tale composed by poet John Lane, who, like Spenser, uses the romance genre to build upon the ‘ruin’ of the past. Exploring both of these authors through the framework of the ‘monument’ reveals their varied approaches to the place of the ‘father of English poetry’ in literary history. Both authors use Chaucer’s romance as a monumental foundation upon which they might define themselves, Spenser as a kindred spirit, a poet, and Lane as an antiquarian scholar interested in restoring what time has defaced.

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Difficult pasts

Post-Reformation memory and the medieval romance


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