Spenser and Biblical Poetics

Spenser and Biblical Poetics

Spenser and Biblical Poetics

Spenser and Biblical Poetics

Synopsis

Carol V. Kaske examines how the form, no less than the theology, of Spenser's writings reveals the influence of the Bible and medieval and Renaissance Biblical hermeneutics. Her approach partakes of both the old historicism and the new.

Spenser and Biblical Poetics is the first comprehensive account of the contradictions and inconsistencies in Spenser's imagery -- particularly in The Faerie Queene. These and his well-known contradictions in doctrine Kaske accepts and celebrates. She shows that Spenser challenges the reader with problems arising from his endorsement of both Protestant and Catholic traditions. She connects Spenser's contradictory style not only with such religious topics (for example, adiaphorism) but also with secular ones such as colonialism, the conflict between nature and culture, and the policies of the Queen. Spenser and Biblical Poetics makes an indispensable contribution to the history of reading in the Renaissance.

Excerpt

The discussion in this chapter lays a foundation not only for ensuing chapters but for further explorations of Spenser's biblical poetics on my part and that of others as well. in the sixteenth century, the Bible represented a major source of legitimacy and cultural capital. in Elizabethan culture--more than ever before, though less than under the Commonwealth or in New England--the Bible and its associated discourses bulked at least as large as did the combined works of classical antiquity and its associated discourses; for women and the poor, it constituted almost the whole of literary culture. Women had access to it because households rich enough to afford books would normally have owned a Geneva Bible and used it daily for private and family devotions. the literate poor could find a Great or a Bishops' Bible displayed for their use, chained to a desk for safekeeping, in every parish church. Elizabethans also had the Bible read to them with documentable frequency. Besides family devotions, everyone was expected to attend church on Sunday; in addition, the universities compelled daily attendance at their own chapels. in the bcp, the services of Morning and Evening Prayer required the recitation of the whole Psalter each month, the Old Testament once a year, and the New Testament thrice. the service of Holy Communion always involved public reading of the Lesson (usually a passage from an Epistle) and--if it was a Sunday or a feast day--of the Gospel prescribed.

Spenser uses the Bible more than does Shakespeare because he is a learned and a thematic poet, but less than Milton because he shifts more often into a secular mood and retains more of the Romanist heritage. Many of Spenser's translations are biblical: four of the sonnets he apparently translated in Theatre versify subjects taken from Revelation; and . . .

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