Literature and Theatre

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From E.K. to Roffy’s ‘boye’ to Rosalind

Chapter 8 revisits the issue of E.K.’s identity and shows that Harvey was involved in preparing E.K.’s Gloss to the Shepheardes Calender. The Gloss introduces biographical details about Harvey’s life that Spenser by himself could not have supplied. On these grounds, Brink suggests that Harvey supplied the Gloss to Spenser, but that Spenser edited it and so assumed editorial control over the text. This textual analysis is supported by the bibliographical fact that the Gloss supplies annotations for references later cut from the text.

Brink thinks that the combination of homosexual references in the text of the Shepheardes Calender and the discussion of pederasty in the Gloss makes Harvey’s participation all the more likely. Brink suggests the possibility that Spenser insisted on his anonymity in the text of the Shepheardes Calender and references to it because he wanted to prevent reprisals against Bishop John Young. After reviewing the joking interchanges in Latin between Harvey and Immerito in Familiar Letters, Brink suggests that it seems likely that, whatever fictional identity Rosalind has in the Shepheardes Calender, his personal romance ended happily with his marriage to Machabyas Chylde.

in The early Spenser, 1554–80

This chapter argues that, after leaving Cambridge, Spenser was employed in London from 1574 to 1578 by John Young, Master of Pembroke College. Previously, it has been assumed that he was employed by Young only after he became Bishop of Rochester in 1578. The only source for the assumption that Spenser was the ‘secretary’ to an Elizabethan bishop is a note written inside the book that Spenser gave Gabriel Harvey for Christmas in 1578. During Spenser’s sojourn in London, he met his future wife, became disillusioned with the Church of England, and decided against taking holy orders. A re-examination of topical satire in the ecclesiastical eclogues shows that Spenser attacked John Aylmer, Bishop of London, for selling timber on church lands to enrich his offspring. This satire in the Shepheardes Calender, later echoed in the Marprelate tracts, indicates that Spenser no longer planned to take holy orders. In an eclogue such as Maye, Spenser has been identified as a Puritan, Church of England Protestant, and even a Catholic. In the ecclesiastical eclogues, he deliberately uses a dialogic structure to conceal his religious persuasion.

in The early Spenser, 1554–80

This chapter explains that the Elizabethan grammar school education, which Spenser and Shakespeare would have received, involved learning to read Latin texts in Latin and to engage in double translation, i.e., sophisticated exercises in translating from Latin to English and back again. Brink surveys the unusually liberal education that Spenser would have received at Merchant Taylors’ School and suggests that Richard Mulcaster influenced Spenser’s decision to write in English. Mulcaster forcefully advocated educating the lower classes and even supported educating women. In this chapter, the reader is introduced to the typological reading encouraged by studying Alexander Nowell’s Catechism. The reader is shown how typological reading is likely to have influenced Spenser’s symbolism in Book I of the Faerie Queene.

in The early Spenser, 1554–80
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This section draws attention to the place of persuasion and rhetoric in cosmographical writings. It also offers a synoptic overview of the book’s arguments, drawing out the concerns with vision and perspective in particular, and closes with a final look at Spenser’s Mutabilitie Cantos.

in Edmund Spenser and the romance of space
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Cosmography and chorography

At the heart of this chapter is a reading of Merlin’s glass – a perspectival object that crystallises new perspectives on the speculative poetics of the early modern geographical imagination. The chapter thinks about how to gauge the changing scales of Britomart’s journey by reading her quest alongside the spatial arts of cosmography and chorography, and looks back to the earlier readings of Cuningham’s Cosmographical Glasse and Waghenaer’s Mariners Mirrour. In seeking out the maker of her vision, Spenser’s lady-knight makes the transition from speculative armchair traveller to practical wayfarer, thus drawing together multiple modes of spatial representation in Spenser’s poem. In its discussion of spatial rhetoric, this chapter acts as a bridge between the initial focus of the book on archetypes, expectations, and genres, and the emerging focus of the second half of the study in shifting, but specific, types of environments. In particular, the movement towards Merlin’s cave at Maridunum introduces a coastal setting that both anchors and destabilises Spenser’s fiction-making and offers a vital example of Spenser’s increasingly fraught handling of the relationship between spatial forms and desire.

in Edmund Spenser and the romance of space

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.

This chapter moves the discussion away from allegory into new generic terrain and attends to the spatial paradoxes and utopian drives of romance, paying particular attention to the relationship between the natural environment and the landscape of chivalry. Romance is traditionally associated with marvellous settings and the traversal of impossible distance; yet, in the late sixteenth century, the mode was also associated with inertia, passivity, and the petrifaction of knowledge. It is famed for its dilatory qualities and its tendency to postpone endings for the delight and entertainment of an audience; however, as critics such as Andrew King have observed, Spenser’s Faerie Queene offers a radical reassessment of the mode. In Spenser’s hands, the epistemological strategies of romance allow for both deliberate plotting and regressive drift, and the chapter places particular emphasis on the capacity of imaginative literature to confront conditions of uncertainty and ignorance.

in Edmund Spenser and the romance of space
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This section foregrounds the idea that the fictions of the late sixteenth century are shaped by a slippery epistemological moment, in which the wanderings of romance, and its relationship to epic and allegory, were called into question by new ways of making knowledge. In order to frame the readings of the curious spaces and geographies of Edmund Spenser’s generically hybrid writings, the opening of this book draws attention to how spatial images are used to perform, describe, and interrogate knowledge-making processes. The imaginative travail Spenser asks of his readers finds parallels in the perceptual travail demanded by early modern authors of non-fiction. These voices are more than contextual aids: reading Spenser’s poetry and prose also helps us to appreciate their strategies more fully. The literary ‘making’ that happens at Spenser’s hands is no less present in the work of his practically-minded contemporaries. The introduction also situates the book’s arguments within existing critical discussions.

in Edmund Spenser and the romance of space

This chapter expands on Spenser’s interests in the rhetoric of error and considers the ways in which The Faerie Queene constantly questions the nature of directive authority: in Spenser’s poem, a succession of figures representing false and true guidance results in the creation of an epistemological geography concerned with measurement, orientation, and memory. The chapter focuses on the relationship between the body and the determination of whereabouts in order to think about how Spenser uses ‘moving metaphor’ to model states of virtue and knowing; it tests the premise that Spenser’s allegories engage in debates concerning not only the mode’s efficacy but also the extent to which man, to borrow the formulation of Protagoras, can truly be considered as ‘the measure of all things’. The chapter reads across the first and second book of The Faerie Queene and finds cognate moments of compromised movement in works including Geoffrey Chaucer’s The House of Fame and Thomas Browne’s Pseudodoxica Epidemica, thus enriching the chapter’s reading of the key role that questions of motion and authority play in Spenser’s fictions.

in Edmund Spenser and the romance of space

This chapter considers the work done by a tidal, hydrographical imagination in Spenser’s writing. The coastal imaginaries of The Faerie Queene’s middle books are read alongside works by John Dee, namely General and Rare Memorials Pertayning to the Perfect Arte of Navigation (1577), and Sir Walter Ralegh, namely the ‘21th: and last booke of the Ocean to Scinthia’. In the readings made by the chapter, which seek to identify the spatial dimensions implicit in what Louis Montrose has described as the ‘Elizabethan political imaginary’, the tideline is considered as an emblematic space, characterised by recurrent images of gain and loss, in which personal desire is put under pressure by nationalistic dreams of empire. The chapter builds on earlier discussions of movement and travail and argues that the middle books of Spenser’s Faerie Queene inhabit a spatial imaginary that is shared with other writers attempting to mythologise Elizabeth I and the realm over which she governs. The chapter takes a renewed interest in questions of poetic and hydrographical form, which looks forward to the subsequent discussions of Ireland as wetland, and islands as privileged locations for the making of competing fictions.

in Edmund Spenser and the romance of space