This essay examines those aspects of The Shepheardes Calender that its commentator, E. K., describes as “strange,” arguing that these features reflect interpretive practices cultivated in the coterie surrounding Edmund Spenser’s friend and mentor, Gabriel Harvey at Cambridge in the 1570s. Constituting a significant reorientation of the humanist critical project as exemplified by contemporary theorists such as Sidney and Puttenham, these interpretive practices ground a poetics in which meaning is not found in synthesizing or subsuming all forms of knowledge under a common system, but rather in contemplating formal variety itself. The Shepheardes Calender notably rejects the commonplace humanist notion that poems exist apart from the world as rationalizing or limiting correctives to the uncertainties of material experience. Rather, the book locates its poems’ affective and conceptual force in their capacity to operate as adaptive responses to, and means of discovery within, a world of persistent, and persistently strange singularities.


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pp. 420-441
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