Edmund Spenser: A Literary Life, 1st Edition by Gary Waller (auth.)

By Gary Waller (auth.)

Gary Waller surveys Spenser's profession by way of the fabric stipulations of its creation - the usually missed fabric components of race, gender, category, company - and the resonant 'places' which encouraged his occupation - courtroom, church, country, colony. The publication comprises an unique account of the gender politics of Spenser's paintings and his tricky place among eire and England, the 'homes' approximately which he held ambivalent emotions. Waller additionally discusses the 'place' the biographer occupies in writing a literary life.

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Extra info for Edmund Spenser: A Literary Life, 1st Edition

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Yet chivalric romance did not merely provide material for the fantasies of its members; as in the case of Philip Sidney, chivalric ideals frequently brought real, not just imagined, deaths. Destruction and domination are not merely fantasies. Male violence may, as Theweleit argues, be seen in part as an attempt to cover over the tragically self-destructive complex of gender stereotypes of the 'notyet-fully-born'. For men, the armored, near-anonymous body of a combatant provided a challenge to imagine his own invulnerability, which could be proven by subjugating and demolishing what is vulnerable and different.

The knight, tourneys, challenges, and skirmishes which make up such a overwhelming part of The Faerie Queene require to be read not merely as a part of the background of Spenser's life, but as a revelation of its gender and class politics. The chivalric ideal of the age might be summed up in the daring and gallantry of Spenser's friend Sir Walter Ralegh whom Spenser represents in Books Four and Six as Timias the squire who pines after the unapproachable Belphoebe; or in the Penshurst portrait of Philip Sidney, dressed in partial armor, one hand on hip, the other holding a sword, the essential heroic figure, 'untrammeled', as Maureen Quilligan points out, 'by any social context', as if the values he represents were absolute, unalterable by historical accident or even death.

Such matters have only recently started to surface in Spenser criticism and scholarship. And it is by no means The Construction of a Literary Life 27 irrelevant that most of Spenser's critics, at least until very recently, have been men. As Shepherd comments, this has led to an overwhelming assumption that gender is not relevant to the reading of Spenser. What he terms the 'primitive innocent world of male bonding' in Spenser criticism affects not only the values that were encoded in his poems but the ways in which they have been read in later times.

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