Sheep, beasts, and knights: fugitive alterity in Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene book VI, and The Shepheardes Calender

Stenner, Rachel (2020) Sheep, beasts, and knights: fugitive alterity in Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene book VI, and The Shepheardes Calender. In: McHugh, Susan, McKay, Robert and Miller, John (eds.) The Palgrave handbook of animals in literature. Palgrave Studies in Animals and Literature . Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, pp. 167-179. ISBN 9783030397722

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Abstract

This chapter reads “The Legend of Courtesie”, Book VI of Spenser’s unfinished romance alongside his anonymously published debut, The Shepheardes Calender (1579), a set of twelve pastoral eclogues. Book VI seemingly rests on a series of polarisations: human/animal; culture/nature; civilisation/savagery; and, less obviously, romance/pastoral. These dualisms lend themselves to the interests of animal studies but critics have not yet brought this framework to the Book. The first task of this chapter is to draw critical attention to the significance of Book VI’s animals, particularly its pastoral flocks of sheep and the terrifying monster that is the Blatant Beast. I initially argue that the animals support the Book’s conceptual and generic polarisations; in this respect, they perform a function that is continuous with the allegorical mode of the poem as a whole. However, Spenser does not rest on such easy distinctions. This becomes evident when we turn to Book VI’s destabilisation of its own categories via its other important animals: a bear and a tiger. Spenser insinuates into his representations an alterity and hybridity which resist taming and trapping. The significance of this resistance is that it is offered not only by the other animals, but by the humans too, occurring when they occupy momentary imaginative spaces, perform temporal moves, or swerves in signification. With these deft gestures, the poem reaches for a fugitive alterity.

Item Type: Book Section
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Research Centres and Groups: Centre for Early Modern and Medieval Studies
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Depositing User: Rachel Stenner
Date Deposited: 21 Sep 2018 11:24
Last Modified: 02 Dec 2021 09:53
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/78902
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