Abstract

This article makes a case for the value of literary form to the study of globalization. The literary critical movement of global studies has tended to show how literature represents or participates in transnational relations. I argue for the importance of attending to how literature both shapes ideas of worldhood and brings out a paradox within them: that any attempt to make a world will also be a disruptive act that prevents the unity worldhood presumes. I contend that allegory is a literary mode that particularly calls attention to this paradox. Complicating genealogical accounts that bracket allegory as a medieval worldview off from modern paradigms of representation, I look to Spenser’s Faerie Queene, written at a liminal moment when transnational capitalism is just emerging, as a revealing case of allegory’s relevance to globalization. Examining two prominent examples of the Spenserian allegory of the world as a harmonious chain, I argue that the trope is not as peaceful as it might at first appear, bringing out an element of destabilization present in all worldmaking. As such, Spenser’s poem reflects on the violence and disruption inherent in trying to bring the world together into a single allegorical system. While Spenser has often been read as a poet deeply nostalgic for what he sees as a fading medieval worldview, I argue, in examining the Cave of Mammon canto, that Spenser shows how medieval allegory continues to inform modern paradigms of global commerce.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-661X
Print ISSN
0028-6087
Pages
pp. 165-186
Launched on MUSE
2015-05-20
Open Access
No
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