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Reviews The Spenser Encyclopedia BR UCE R. SMITH A.C. Hamilton, general editor. The Spenser Encyclopedia University of Toronto Press 1990. xxi, 809, index; 107 figures. $250.00 For Chaucer, Dante, Homer, Joyce, Lamb, Melville, and Shakespeare there are 'companions.' For Jane Austen, Carlyle, Proust, Shakespeare, and Bernard Shaw there are 'guides.' For E4mund Spenser there is now an 'encyclopedia.' To the best of my knowledge, heretofore Dickens, Milton, and Shakespeare'were the only English authors who could lay claim to that distinction. However, most of the so-called encyclopediasdevoted to thosewriters are really dictionaries ofproper names rather than compendia of all that there is to know about the author and his works. (The exceptions are OJ. Campbell's Reader's Encyclopedia of Shakespeare [1966], which has little commerce with current Shakespeare studies, and A Milton Encyclopedia, gen ed William B. Hunter, Jr [1978-83], which modestly adopts the indefinite article despite its nine-volume breadth. More than half of the five hundred pages of The Cl1arles Dickens Encyclopedia [1973J, compiled by Michael and Mollie Hardwick, is a novel-by-novel anthology of memorable quotations. Like the Hardwicks' bits ofknowledge about Dickens, Michael Rheta Martin's Concise Encyclopedic Guide to Shakespeare [1971] is mostly a dictionary of proper names, supplemented in this case by definitions of obsolete words. Fictional characters and historical personsages, not topics like 'philosophy/ 'women,' or 'politics,' likewise make up Charles Boyce's recent volume, Shakespeare A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Plays, His Poems, His Life and Times, and More [1990). Nowhere in the volume is 'essential' problematized, and 'More' turns out not to be Sir Thomas.) In general, Subjects, not authorial/subjects,' are the subjects of encyclopedias. On topics that might be of interest to students of Spenser there already exist encyclopedias of anthropology, classical mythology, computerscience, death, economics, Englishand American poets and poetry, ethics, fairies, games, herbs and herbalism, historical places, human behaviour/library and information science, literahue, mental health, military history, morals, nationalism, occultismand parapsychology, philosophy, poetry and poetics, politics, psychoanalysis, psychology, real estate, religion, science fiction, sexual behaviour, suicide, terrorism and political violence, the book, the dead, the Renaissance, the unexplained, the written word, themes and subjects in UN1VERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY, VOLUME 62, NUMBER 4, SUMMER 1993 L'EMERGENCE DU FEMININ 523 painting, theology,unbelief, witchcraftand demonology,and witchcraft and magic. (There is even an encyclopedia of one-liner comedy, but that is unlikely to interest Spenserians.) To the subjects of these extant encyclopedias we may now add 'Spenser.' Why Spenser should inspire a new encyclopedia, while no one has thought about updating Campbell's Shakespeare, is worth thinking about. The editors themselves call attention to two reasons: the renaissance of Spenser studies in the 19605, when a record number ofbooks about The Faerie Queene were published, and the example of the encyclopedia devoted to Milton, who had himself acknowledged Spenser as his 'Origina1.' The connectionbetween Spenser and Milton as encyclopedic subjects goes beyond the matter of influence. Both poets are pre-eminently learned writers, and the learning voiced and embodied in each poet's works is certainly enough to fill an encyclopedia. In contrast to Shakespeare's plays, The Faerie Queene and Paradise Lost were perceived as High Culture from the moment of their creation. As a genre, epic is itself encyclopedic in its pretensions to speak for an entire culture. Many of the subjects addressed in The Spenser Encyclopedia are, in fact, central to the culture of early modem England and have a relevance that extends far beyond Spenser. The articles here on Calvinism (by Peter Auksi), chivalry (Richard C. McCoy), medicine (F. David Hoeniger), Platonism (JonA. Quitslund), and romance (Patricia Parker), to name only a few, would make good starting places for the study of any early modern writer, not just Spenser. The 'Spenser' of the title means more than 'Spenser, Edmund,' who in fact gets his own biographical entry (by Ruth Mohl). As the editors imply, academic fashions and academic politics have something to do with the-project, too. Although Spenser came off badly under scrutiny of the New Criticism (if Donne's love lyrics were well-wrought urns, Spenser's narrative poems were prodigious...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 522-525
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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