This book offers a new approach to engaging with the representation and aesthetics of provisional knowledge in Edmund Spenser’s writing via a focus on his use of spatial images. The study takes advantage of recent interdisciplinary interests in the spatial qualities of early modern thought and culture, and considers literature concerning the art of cosmography and navigation alongside imaginative literature in order to identify shared modes and preoccupations. The book looks to the work of cultural and historical geographers in order to gauge the roles that aesthetic subjectivity and the imagination play in the development of geographical knowledge – contexts ultimately employed by the study to achieve a better understanding of the place of Ireland in Spenser’s writing. The study also engages with recent ecocritical approaches to literary environments, such as coastlines, wetlands, and islands, in order to frame fresh readings of Spenser’s handling of mixed genres.
It has long been accepted that Ireland had a potent effect on the imagination of EdmundSpenser (1552/4–99), the most important non-dramatic
poet of the English Renaissance. Often this has been seen in entirely
negative terms, especially since C. S. Lewis argued that ‘Spenser was the
instrument of a detestable policy in Ireland’, so that by the fifth book of
The Faerie Queene ‘the wickedness he had shared begins to corrupt his
imagination’.1 That book – at least the allegorical representation of events
in Ireland – was
, ‘Species of Spaces’, Georges Perec offers a system for classifying the relationship between space, writing, and the imagination. Perec’s own prose, which is sensitive to the practices of geography and the mutability of worldly experience, seeks to find a series of expressions for the provisional quality implicit in textual and spatial encounters. In the epigraph quoted above, he describes the capacity of the written word to retain something of the world: a process that can be recognised in the various literary geographies of EdmundSpenser’s work. 3 It has long been
EdmundSpenser’s The Ruines of Time as
a Protestant poetics of mourning and
I have completed a memorial more lasting than bronze and higher than the
royal grave of the pyramids.
Horace, Odes, Book 3, Ode 30
According to Horace, the poem is a memorial surpassing the commemorative
function of funeral monuments like the pyramids. This claim to the superior
mnemonic power of poetry derives from the immateriality and consequently,
the argument goes, the immortality of the poem as well as the person commemorated by it. The
understanding. The art of mapping, as both scopic tool and literary metaphor, is a provisional and performative labour: a work of ‘making’ that occludes as much as it purports to discover.
The language of space is often self-reflexive and those wielding it frequently resort to a spatial form of reference that folds back on itself. In the work of several of the authors discussed in the preceding chapters, thought is figured as motion, particularly when matters are elusive and difficult to define. Although this study has focused on EdmundSpenser’s
as well as a political renovatio’. See Poets Historical: Dynastic Epic in the Renaissance (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982), p. 178.
27 See David Galbraith, Architectonics of Imitation in Spenser, Daniel and Drayton (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000), pp. 52–74.
28 See James Nohrnberg, ‘Britomart’s Gone Abroad to Brute-land, Colin Clout’s Come Courting from the Salvage Ire-Land: Exile and the Kingdom in Some of Spenser’s Fictions for “Crossing Over”’, in EdmundSpenser: New and Renewed
’, Criticism , 32.2 (1990), 163–92.
6 See Bruce McLeod, The Geography of Empire in English Literature, 1580–1745 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999; repr. 2009), pp. 32–75 (p. 62).
7 David Armitage, ‘The Elizabethan Idea of Empire’, TRHS , 14 (2004), 269–77, p. 270.
8 William J. Smyth, Map Making, Landscapes and Memory : A Geography of Colonial and Early Modern Ireland, c. 1530–1750 (Cork: Cork University Press, 2006), p. 42. See also Richard A. McCabe, ‘Translated States: Spenser and Linguistic Colonialism’, in EdmundSpenser: Essays on Culture and
Rosalind Field, ‘The King Over the Water: Exile-and-Return Revisited’, in Cultural Encounters in the Romance of Medieval England , ed. Corinne Saunders (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2005), pp. 41–53 and Terry Comito, ‘Exile and Return in the Greek Romances’, Arion , 2.1 (1975), 58–80.
20 See Donald Cheney, ‘Colin Clout’s Homecoming: The Imaginative Travels of EdmundSpenser’, Connotations , 7.2 (1997–1998), 146–58.
21 Geraldine Heng, Empire of Magic: Medieval Romance and the Politics of Cultural Fantasy (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), p. 1 and p. 3
‘seen and the unseen’ as a point of religious doctrine see James A. Knapp, Image Ethics in Shakespeare and Spenser (New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2011), pp. 82–3.
64 Kenneth Gross, ‘The Postures of Allegory’, in EdmundSpenser: Essays on Culture and Allegory , ed. Jennifer Klein Morrison and Matthew Greenfield (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000), pp. 167–79 (p. 167).
65 See Judith H. Anderson, Reading the Allegorical Intertext: Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton (New York: Fordham University Press, 2008), p. 5 and Christopher Burlinson, Allegory, Space and the
the chance encounter. The weaving of Penelope would have had to wait for another opportunity; there would have been no story. 31 It would seem, therefore, that Spoudaeus puts his finger on a particularly slippery moment, in which the wanderings of romance, and its relationship to epic, were called into question by new ways of making knowledge: advances made in practical attitudes towards space and movement created a challenge for authors of narrative fiction, limiting their capacity to craft deferral in a credible way.