Spenser and Virgil

The pastoral poems

Author: Syrithe Pugh

Dubbed 'the English Virgil' in his own lifetime, Edmund Spenser has been compared to the Augustan laureate ever since. He invited the comparison, expecting a readership intimately familiar with Virgil's works to notice and interpret his rich web of allusion and imitation, but also his significant departures and transformations. This book considers Spenser's pastoral poetry, and the genre which announces the inception of a Virgilian career in The Shepheardes Calender. It also considers to which he returns in Colin Clouts Come Home Againe, throwing the 'Virgilian career' into reverse. The book first makes a case for taking seriously the allegorical mode of reading Virgil's Eclogues prominent in the commentary tradition from Servius to the Renaissance. It then examines how The Shepheardes Calender seeks to replicate the Virgilian dynamic of bargaining with power in its opposition to the D'Alencon match. When 'Colin Clouts Come Home Againe' is read in conjunction with 'Astrophel', it becomes clear that they have in common not only their central themes but also their major intertexts, both in Virgil and in Spenser's other works. They are in fact complementary parts of the same project, constructing their meaning and their poetic programme through allusive dialogue both with Virgil and with each other.

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Winner of the Isabel MacCaffrey Prize in recognition of the best book in Spenser Studies published in 2015/16,

 

‘Pugh is to be commended on a major contribution to Spenser studies and to the study of the reception of Virgil. This is a book that deserves to be pondered by Early Modernists and classicists alike.'
Philip Hardie, Trinity College, Cambridge
The Spenser Review

‘The volume concludes with a valuable index of cited passages. Production values throughout are of an admirably high standard. In short, this is a book that all lovers of classical and English Renaissance literature will profit from consulting. To the degree that they absorb its lessons, they will have a better understanding of some of the most hauntingly beautiful of poetic compositions.'
Lee Fratantuono, Ohio Wesleyan University
Medievalia et Humanistica, New Series, Number 43

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