Spenser and the Discourses of Reformation England - Vol. 2

Spenser and the Discourses of Reformation England - Vol. 2

Spenser and the Discourses of Reformation England - Vol. 2

Spenser and the Discourses of Reformation England - Vol. 2

Synopsis

Spenser and the Discourses of Reformation England is a wide-ranging exploration of the relationships among literature, religion, and politics in Renaissance England. Richard Mallette demonstrates how one of the great masterpieces of English literature, Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene, reproduces, criticizes, parodies, and transforms the discourses of England during that remarkable political and literary era. According to Mallette, The Faerie Queene not only represents Reformation values but also challenges, questions, and frequently undermines Protestant assumptions. Building upon recent scholarship, particularly new historicism, Protestant poetics, feminism, and gender theory, this ambitious study traces The Faerie Queene's linkage of religion to political and social realms. Mallette's study expands traditional theological conceptions of Renaissance England, showing how the poem incorporates and transmutes religious discourses and thereby tests, appraises, and questions their avowals and assurances. The book's focus on religious discourses leads Mallette to examine how such matters as marriage, gender, the body, revenge, sexuality, and foreign policy were represented-in both traditional and subversive ways-in Spenser's influential masterpiece. A bold and finely argued contribution to our understanding of Spenser, Reformation thought, and Renaissance literature and society, Mallette's study will add to the ongoing reassessment of England during this important period.

Excerpt

This book locates The Faerie Queene within the considerable corpus of English Reformation discourses and shows how the poem reproduces, transforms, criticizes, and parodies those discourses. the study expands the conception of theology beyond doctrine and judges the reconciliation of religious and literary texts. It focuses as much on the sociopolitical, ethical, and psychological dimensions of Reformed religion as on theological belief. Each of the following chapters accentuates how religion intermingles with other discursive spheres. Whereas much past Spenser scholarship has treated Reformation texts as sources in traditional ways, this work centers on the overlapping of discourses. the book, then, dilates traditional conceptions of the Reformation and redefines the relations of religious texts to other texts and discourses. It demonstrates how the Reformation helped to redraw the boundaries of previously segregated domains: theological, rhetorical, ethical, sexual, political, literary. To glimpse how this book will proceed, let us examine one of those boundaries, where Spenser's poem converges with a provocative set piece of Reformation polemic.

In his treatise A Reformed Catholike (1598), William Perkins sets forth the differences between "the Church of Rome" and "us" by comparing the state of a sinner to the condition of a prisoner. Catholics suppose the prisoner bound hand and foot with chains, enfeebled by sickness,

Yet not wholly dead, but liuing in part: it [i.e., Rome] supposeth also, that being in this case, he stirreth not himselfe for any helpe, and yet hath the abilitie and power to stirre. Hereupon, if the keeper come and take away his bolts and fetters, and hold him by the hand, and helpe him vp, hee can and will of himselfe stand and walke, and go out of prison: euen so (say they) . . . if the holy Ghost come and doe but vntie . . .

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