Spenser and the Poetics of Pastoral: A Study of the World of Colin Clout

Synopsis

The Shepheardes Calender (1579) signalled Spenser's desire to assume the role of an English Virgil and at the same time his readiness to leave behind the pastoral world of his apprenticeship and his early persona, Colin Clout. Yet Spenser was twice to return to the pastoral world of Colin Clout, first in Colin Clouts Come Home Againe (written 1591, published 1595), and then again in the sixth and last complete book of The Faerie Queene. In Spenser and the Poetics of Pastoral, David Shore considers the structure of the moral eclogues of the Calender as it defines the pastoral vision that informs and unifies the entire poem. He then examines the themes of poetic idealism and courtly corruption in Colin Clout and sees in their confrontation Spenser's questioning of the public foundations of the poet's heroic endeavour. Finally, he considers Calidore's pastoral retreat in The Faerie Queene and finds in it support for the argument that Spenser's greatest poem is essentially complete. Pastoral is a highly self-conscious genre, especially in Spenser's explorations of the imaginative world of Colin Clout. By bringing together Spenser's three versions of that world, Spenser and the Poetics of Pastoral contributes to a richer appreciation of the pastoral works themselves and to a better understanding of the shape of Spenser's literary career as a whole.