Reading the Allegorical Intertext
Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton
Publication Year: 2008
Published by: Fordham University Press
Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication
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Prior Publication (in whole or in substantial part)
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Introduction: Reading the Allegorical Intertext
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Reading between and among texts is something I have been doing in articles, books, and classrooms over several decades. This kind of reading is a staple of the traditional, centuries-spanning literary survey course, as well as of literature courses more generally. It highlights specifically textual concerns with the generation of meaning. Such intertextual relations can be...
Part 1: Allegorical Reflections of The Canterbury Tales in The Faerie Queene
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1. Chaucer’s and Spenser’s Reflexive Narrators
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Reports of the ‘‘death of the author’’ in the closing decades of the twentieth century nowadays appear to have been greatly exaggerated. His (sometimes her) presumed demise, to be sure, was strategically useful, not merely in renewing the formalist critique of the intentional fallacy, but also in laying to rest the naive assumption of a unified, autonomous self essentially apart...
2. What Comes After Chaucer’s But in The Faerie Queene
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The bearing of an article by Talbot Donaldson called ‘‘Adventures with the Adversative Conjunction in The General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales; or, What’s Before the But?’’ on the Proem to Book VI of The Faerie Queene is unlikely, indirect, and illuminating. Donaldson’s article examines how the illogical use of but in Chaucer’s Prologue indicates the pressures of a mind...
3. ‘‘Pricking on the plaine’’: Spenser’s Intertextual Beginnings and Endings
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The opening line of the first canto of the first Book of The Faerie Queene, ‘‘A Gentle Knight was pricking on the plaine,’’ introduces the Chaucerian intertext and does so problematically.1 I doubt the Spenserian exists who has not heard some medievalist declare, ‘‘I could never get over, or never forgive Spenser, his opening line.’’ Yet for years Spenserians themselves, as if...
4. Allegory, Irony, Despair: Chaucer’s Pardoner’s and Franklin’s Tales and Spenser’s Faerie Queene, Books I and III
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In the following chapter about allegory, irony, and despair in The Pardoner’s Tale and Book I of The Faerie Queene and in The Franklin’s Tale and Book III, I start with verbal echoes as a way of suggesting the plausibility of an interpretive context, but concentrate instead on intertextual relations between Chaucerian and Spenserian texts that are broader—more imaginative...
5. Eumnestes’ ‘‘immortall scrine’’: Spenser’s Archive
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Like Chaucer, Spenser often finds or pretends to find in earlier books the enabling source of his own poetry, and for this reason, among others, he describes Chaucer’s writing as the wellhead of his own. A number of Spenser’s interpreters have sought the meaning of his deliberate reliance on a written tradition in pure textuality or in its effect on a community of readers.1...
6. Spenser’s Use of Chaucer’s Melibee: Allegory, Narrative, History
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In an important article on the relation of Spenser’s late lyrics to The Faerie Queene, Paul Alpers is especially concerned to defend Spenser’s Melibee, the kindly old shepherd destroyed in the sixth book by marauding brigands, from other readers’ charges of laziness, carelessness, or blindness. In terms of traditional morality, Alpers seeks to defend Melibee from the charge of...
Part 2: Agency, Allegory, and History within the Spenserian Intertext
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7. Spenser’s Muiopotmos and Chaucer’s Nun’s Priest’s Tale
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Most readers would probably agree with the editors of the Spenser Variorum that ‘‘in writing Muiopotmos [: or The Fate of the Butterflie] Spenser could hardly have been unconscious of Chaucer’s mock-heroic poems, but that he was not engaged in a studied imitation of them."1 As evidenced in Muiopotmos, Spenser’s specific interest in The Nun’s Priest’s Tale lies somewhere...
8. Arthur and Argante: Parodying the Ideal Vision
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One of the more luridly colorful figures in The Faerie Queene is Argante, the aggressively lustful giantess of Book III. She first appears bearing the Squire of Dames ‘‘athwart her horse,’’ bound fast ‘‘with cords of wire, / Whom she did meane to make the thrall of her desire.’’1 Within stanzas, she has discarded the Squire, replacing him with the mightier Sir Satyrane, whom...
9. Chaucer’s Parliament of Fowls and Refractions of a Veiled Venus in The Faerie Queene
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The lack of weight most criticism has accorded the relationship between The Faerie Queene and Chaucer’s Parliament of Fowls is surprising: for Spenser, Chaucer was a poet of love, an acknowledged poetic model who ‘‘well couth . . . wayle hys woes,’’ and the Parliament is Chaucer’s formative consideration of the various kinds of love.1 Recurrently, from the initial canto...
10. The Antiquities of Fairyland and Ireland
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In our century the words antique and antiquity normally have a resonance different from what they had for late sixteenth-century readers of Spenser’s Faerie Queene. For us, these words suggest not only age but also antiquation. They signal both the distance of time and that of obsolescence: while something ‘‘antique’’ might be valuable or quaint or interesting, it is not essentially...
11. Better a mischief than an inconvenience: ‘‘The saiyng self ’’ in Spenser’s View of the Present State of Ireland
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The phrase ‘‘saiyng self ’’ (sic) in my title comes from Nicholas Udall’s introduction to Erasmus’ Apophthegmes and refers to the individual apophthegm, or, as we would say, to ‘‘the saying itself.’’1 To a modern ear, Udall’s phrasing also suggests both the self or subject who speaks an apophthegm and the one who is culturally spoken by it, thereby expressing its mixed, unstable...
Part 3: Spenserian Allegory in the Intertexts of Shakespeare and Milton
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12. The Conspiracy of Realism: Impasse and Vision in The Faerie Queene and Shakespeare’s King Lear
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Despite an established but controversial alignment of King Lear with Beckett’s absurdist dramas or, at the alternative extreme, with Dante’s Purgatorio, the relation of King Lear to allegory has remained an elusive topic. The interpretive extremes of this pendulum’s swing are thus conspicuous, but the nature of the pendulum itself seems under taboo. Those aligning a Dantesque...
13. Venus and Adonis: Spenser, Shakespeare, and the Forms of Desire
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In Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis, the switch from Venus as manhandler to Venus as the pathetic—some would say tragic—mourner over the body of dead Adonis has always been problematical. Although passion and grief are twinned conditions of want(ing), the shift in this poem from an aggressive, comic mode to a helpless, pathetic one proves larger than life and challenges...
14. Flowers and Boars: Surmounting Sexual Binarismin Spenser’s Garden of Adonis
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My story starts with two recent classroom experiences: the first concerns a class of Honors undergraduates whom I was trying to persuade to read and think more figuratively and mythically. After receiving a set of papers on sex and gender in Spenser’s third book, I took a leaf, as well as a tusk, from my own past and posed for discussion the difference between an analysis of...
15. Androcentrism and Acrasian Fantasies in the Bower of Bliss
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Harry Berger’s ‘‘Wring out the Old: Squeezing the Text, 1951–2001’’ will be a major critical statement on the Bower of Bliss for years to come, and serious work on the Bower needs to engage its generously annotated, tightly argued analysis of the structural discourse that constitutes this site.1 In ‘‘Squeezing the Text’’ (is the trope laundry or lemon juice?), Berger exposes...
16. Beyond Binarism: Eros/Death and Venus/Mars in Antony and Cleopatra and The Faerie Queene
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Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, like his earlier Venus and Adonis, is known to be generically mixed and even anomalous in the extent and degree to which it combines tragedy, comedy, and romance with lyric, allegory, myth, and history.1 This is the first of several analogies I would draw between Shakespeare’s play and Spenser’s Faerie Queene, that hobgoblin’s...
17. Patience and Passion in Shakespeare and Milton
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In King Lear and Othello, when Shakespeare’s anguished protagonists memorably invoke patience, they do so with an unwitting irony that plays on the linguistic genealogy of this virtue, on its combination of passion and passivity. More than a half century later, Milton’s poetry recalls the centrality and complexity of Shakespeare’s engagement with patience but goes beyond it...
18. ‘‘Real or Allegoric’’ in Herbert and Milton: Thinking through Difference
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In the fourth Book of Paradise Regained, Satan tempts the Son with the intellectual splendors of ancient Greece, and these having been rejected, asks him in scornful frustration, ‘‘What dost thou in this World?’’: what connects you to history and humanity? Satan adds that his reading of heaven portends a kingdom for the Son, ‘‘but what Kingdom, / Real or Allegoric I discern...
19. Spenser and Milton: The Mind’s Allegorical Place
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Of relatively recent studies of Milton’s poetics, Mindele Anne Treip’s Allegorical Poetics and the Epic: The Renaissance Tradition to ‘‘Paradise Lost’’ remains, for my purpose, the most historically significant.1 In the Renaissance, Treip explains, Salutati’s theoretical discussions of poetry anticipate ‘‘a practical paradigm of epic allegory of the kind Tasso would evolve, suggesting...
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Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2008