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Thread: A Theatre for Spenserians

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    in angulo cum libro Petrarch's Love's Avatar
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    A Theatre for Spenserians

    Since there's at least one other Spenser fan running periodically in and out of the forests of this forum I thought I'd start a thread where anyone interested in things Spenserian can post. Comments, questions, encomium, or criticism of Spenser and his works is welcome here. Those who are wondering why I'm not posting in the "Spenser" thread of the individual author section are clearly unaware of the shocking fact that such a thread does not exist. I think there should be threats of challenge to mortal combat if such a situation persists!

    Britomart--since this is really a continuation of our little chat and since it's likely you're the only one here ( ), I thought I'd introduce myself. I'm a woman (since we'd already had a mix up, I figured you might want to know that). I'm in a PhD program and just finishing my final year of coursework. I specialize in Renaissance poetry, especially the epic/romance genre, and I've been absolutely entranced with FQ since I first picked it up as a freshman undergraduate. I love the many ways it can be enjoyed: for the very sound of Spenser's wonderful verse, for the entertainment of the adventures, for the allegory, for the complexity of...well everything. Anyway, gotta run now, but I'll look forward to hearing from you and any others who show up.

    "In rime sparse il suono/ di quei sospiri ond' io nudriva 'l core/ in sul mio primo giovenile errore"~ Francesco Petrarca
    "Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can."~ Jane Austen

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    learning IrishCanadian's Avatar
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    So ... can you post a poem by Spencer since I assume that I'm not the only one not familiar with his/her (?) works? Ora link? MAybe I just live under a rock called Yeats fan ... I should read more, other, stuff.
    Irish poets, learn your trade!
    -Yeats

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    in angulo cum libro Petrarch's Love's Avatar
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    Hi there Irish Canadian. Edmund Spenser was a poet in the Elizabethan period (roughly the generation just before Shakespeare). Unfortunately, at least for the purposes of posting, Spenser's best and most famous work is The Faerie Queene, which is one of the longest poems in the English language (definately the longest epic poem in English). I'll give you a link to Spenser's complete works in case you're curious though. If you want to read around in the Faerie Queene at all I would say books one and three are the best/most widely read. The unfinished book seven (also known as the mutability cantos) is also a shorter read that can almost be read as an independent poem. If you don't want to tackle something of epic proportions you might read around in his sonnet sequence, The Amoretti, or some of his shorter poems like the Epithalamion (a beautiful poem written for the event of his own marriage) or Muiopotmus, which is a really fun little mock epic about a courageous butterfly warrior.

    It wouldn't be surprising that an Irish Yeats fan hadn't read much Spenser. The one really awful thing in Spenser's oevre is his prose work, "On the Present State of Ireland" which is quite shockingly imperialistic about replacing the Irish culture with an English one. He lived much of his life in Ireland, and awful as his treatise sounds today, I think it's one of those things you have to chalk up to common views of his culture in that time period in the same way people view anti-semitism in Shakespeare or misogyny in various poets. I would certainly encourage people to get to know Spenser's poetic works before looking at his controversial, and less impressively written prose, since his poetry displays a really masterful use of language well worth being familiar with for its artistic merit alone if nothing else.
    Last edited by Petrarch's Love; 05-16-2006 at 09:56 PM.

    "In rime sparse il suono/ di quei sospiri ond' io nudriva 'l core/ in sul mio primo giovenile errore"~ Francesco Petrarca
    "Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can."~ Jane Austen

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    learning IrishCanadian's Avatar
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    Thanks ... I've now got my reading cut out for me. But I'm certainly not complaining.
    Irish poets, learn your trade!
    -Yeats

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    I remember once trying to read Spenser's The Faerie Queene, and found it quite difficult, especially in its original Old English - full of worthy metaphors in beautifully written poetry, however, and a work that I cannot but admire.
    Also, if I remember correctly, Spenser, just like Shakespeare and Petrarch, created his own sonnet style - abab bcbc cdcd ee - perhaps the least known, as many poets used the Shakespearean (English) style, and a few Petrarchan (Italian), including Elizabeth Barrett-Browning in her Sonnets From The Portuguese. Edmund Spenser's sonnets, however, I found just as romantic and touching as those of William Shakespeare and Petrarch. One of which I remember reading:

    My love is like to ice, and I to fire:
    How comes it then that this her cold so great
    Is not dissolved through my so hot desire,
    But harder grows the more I her entreat?
    Or how comes it that my exceeding heat
    Is not allayed by her heart-frozen cold,
    But that I burn much more in boiling sweat,
    And feel my flames augmented manifold?
    What more miraculous thing may be told,
    That fire, which all things melts, should harden ice,
    And ice, which is congealed with senseless cold,
    Should kindle fire by wonderful device?
    Such is the power of love in gentle mind,
    That it can alter all the course of kind.

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    Dear Irish Canadian,
    There are short sections of "The Faerie Qveene" that can be picked out and enjoyed. It is best to have an academic copy with notes, because as it is in English, it is not as we know it. The editor A.C. Hamilton is the one to look out for.

    Book 1 canto 1 verses 1 to 26 is a good introduction.

    Book 3 canto 6 verse 29 on contains the Gardins of Adonis section
    Last edited by britomart; 05-17-2006 at 11:17 AM. Reason: mistake

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    Book 2 canto 12 contains the superb Bower of Bliss - verse 42 on

    Book 3 canto 12 is a tour de force of Spenserian weirdness.

    Politics - I think it was David Lowenthal who wrote a book called "The Past is a Foreign Country". I haven't noticed the urge to invade anywhere since reading Spenser's poetry.

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    Spenserian Plunge

    Dear Petrach's Love,
    Ah, I've found the button on this computer thing that will give me a decent sized plain to prick upon.

    The fact that you are a Phd student will make me watch my p's and q's. I am a fifty year old trailer park intellectual who recently studied an M.A. in Rennaisance and Romantic Literature at a respected University. My dissertation was on the allegory of books 1 to 3 of "The Faerie Qveene", which grew to volatile looks at allegory in general (look what it did to Northrop Frye . . . ) (Try a thing called "Watt" by Beckett, more of a semiotic trap for the unwary than a novel). A Phd or M.Phil was a possibilty, but it has never been followed up. Might do it one day, but don't really know if I want to think that hard.

    My first brush with Spenser was the Gardens of Adonis at degree level - not given as a study piece but rather shown to students to illustrate what Milton read. It instantly fascinated me.

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    Plunge again

    I'm interested in what you are studying, so please post up some titles.

    My interest in the older material of the M.A. course was drawn to sonnets in general, some Jonson (hilarious stuff), a bit of Marlowe and Spenser for the dissertation.

    My enthusiasm in the Romantic material studied was mainly for Shelley's work, and it was interesting to read Spenser's influence on him (for instance Giantesses popping up and the use of allegorical figures). Whilst you must be busy in your final year, Shelley's "Triumph of Life" is a demanding but worthwhile read if you have the time.

    England - have you ever been here? It is far from chivalrous these days (not that it probably ever was in the first place), but you can go to a castle and stand on the spot where Richard the second prayed.

  10. #10
    in angulo cum libro Petrarch's Love's Avatar
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    Hi Britomart--Good idea to give Irish some more easy to digest segments of the Faerie Qveene.

    So, I'm glad to meet you. Never mind worrying about the p's and q's, just the FQ. Your work comparing the Renaissance and the Romantics sounds interesting. That's something I've always thought would be intriguing to look into someday since I've always enjoyed reading the Romantic poets for pleasure (Keats is one of my favorites) but have never had the chance to examine the later period with any kind of scholarly depth. I haven't read Shelley's "Triumph of Life." Maybe I'll stick it on my list of things to read this summer when I'm not too swamped with coursework to read anything not directly related to research for class.

    You asked me for titles I'm working with. I also came to the Renaissance with an interest in sonnets, which led to a thesis comparing different sonnet sequences (an intro on Petrarch and chapters on Du Bellay, Garcilaso, Sidney, Spenser, and Shakespeare). I've also had a long time interest in the relationship between poetry and the visual arts in the Med/Ren periods, including papers on Spenser and emblems, and Dante's treatment of art in the Divina Commedia. I have some interest in comparative work as well, particularly the influence of the Italian epic/romance (Ariosto, Tasso, and to a lesser extent Boiardo) in relationship to English authors such as Spenser and Milton. At this particular moment I'm working on a paper for one class on The Tempest, and another one comparing some non-dramatic poetry by Shakespeare and Jonson (as you say, some hilarious stuff). Since I'm done with coursework this term, I've been preparing my three reading lists for for the oral exams next year which involves reading three lists of books in my fields of specialization with an examination by my comittee at the end of the year (the idea is both to ensure that you have a thorough general knowledge to teach and to use the time to come up with dissertation ideas). So far I've really been enjoying coming up with titles I'd like to spend some time getting to know well.

    As for England, I've been there only once for a few weeks just after I graduated highschool. I mostly spent time in London, doing the round of museums and pubs probably typical for most tourists. I also spent a few nights in Salisbury and took a day length pilgrimage to Canterbury and an afternoon in Stratford on Avon. I'd love to go back again. Maybe I can find some sort of travel fellowship for my dissertation year or something. If I get the chance I'll have to "go to a castle and stand on the spot where Richard II prayed." Ever been to the States? I'm originally from California but in Chicago now for my studies.

    So you first got to know Spenser with the Garden of Adonis segment? Pretty nice introduction. Is it still a favorite or is there some other piece of the FQ you like better now? I remember being assigned the first canto of book one for a survey course as a freshman and finding myself somewhere in book three by the end of the weekend. I was dismayed to find the rest of the class was less enthusiastic in their reception of Spenser --maybe that should have been my first hint that literary scholarship was the career for me.

    Well, I'd best go for now.

    "In rime sparse il suono/ di quei sospiri ond' io nudriva 'l core/ in sul mio primo giovenile errore"~ Francesco Petrarca
    "Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can."~ Jane Austen

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    Quote Originally Posted by Petrarch's Love
    I haven't read Shelley's "Triumph of Life." Maybe I'll stick it on my list of things to read this summer when I'm not too swamped with coursework to read anything not directly related to research for class.
    'The Triumph Of Life' by Shelley I have always considered one of my favorite poems - what a shame you have never read it! If interested, you can find a copy here.
    Happy reading!

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    in angulo cum libro Petrarch's Love's Avatar
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    Hi Mono--Thanks for the link to the Shelley. It's a shorter poem than I thought it was for some reason. I'll have to read it when I get the chance. I just saw you'd posted a sonnet from the amoretti above too. Wonderful idea. Cheers.

    "In rime sparse il suono/ di quei sospiri ond' io nudriva 'l core/ in sul mio primo giovenile errore"~ Francesco Petrarca
    "Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can."~ Jane Austen

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    Quick snapshot of Britomartis Byronicus -

    Will respond to all once party head clears, started reading "Childe Harolde" and the rest followed. At least at 50 years old one is blessed that certain kinds of sexual excess are out of the question.

    Favourite bit of FQ is now the last canto of book three where Britomart witnesses the masque. In academic study I became fascinated with the gate keeper like characters in FQ, and some critical stuff was gained from reading Ease.

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    Snapshot 2 -
    Canterbury Cathedral encapsulates something special about England - but London is virtually a separate city state, they do things differently there.

    R2 prayer spot was at Conway Castle in Wales, (extremely English despite the location). This appreciation dear to me because of Shakey's play.

    Richard 2 is famous for being the King that introduced the handkerchief to England, whilst some of the fashions of the time were hilarious. R2 a notoriously bad King, but Shakey's portrayal of him heart piercing. Will write again once the chronologically challenged dime store Don Juan phase wears off. (I'm trying to pepper my writing with Americanisms from time to time)

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    in angulo cum libro Petrarch's Love's Avatar
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    Britomart with a party head in a "chronologically challenged dime store Don Juan phase!" The last thing Spenser ever expected for the heroine of his book on chastity. Yes, the masque at the end of book three is pretty incredible stuff. My advisor refers to it as "compellingly disturbing." Spenser's poetry really shines when he's describing things in visual terms, like the masque.
    Canterbury Cathedral encapsulates something special about England - but London is virtually a separate city state, they do things differently there.
    I got that sense about both places. I loved Canterbury Cathedral. I went intending to spend an hour or so and stayed for the better part of the day.
    R2 prayer spot was at Conway Castle in Wales, (extremely English despite the location). This appreciation dear to me because of Shakey's play.

    Richard 2 is famous for being the King that introduced the handkerchief to England, whilst some of the fashions of the time were hilarious. R2 a notoriously bad King, but Shakey's portrayal of him heart piercing.
    I didn't know RII introduced the handkerchief to England. Learn something every day. I agree that Shakey did a pretty smashing job with Richard II. I'll have to make my way to Conway Castle some day.
    (I'm trying to pepper my writing with Americanisms from time to time)
    If only "dime store" were still a reality and not just a colloquial expression. We still talk about dime stores, but we've really got dollar stores. Well old chap, I suppose I shall jolly well have to try peppering my writing with a few English expressions in the interests of international harmony and understanding. Cheerio for now.

    "In rime sparse il suono/ di quei sospiri ond' io nudriva 'l core/ in sul mio primo giovenile errore"~ Francesco Petrarca
    "Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can."~ Jane Austen

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