Reading and Not Reading The Faerie Queene: Spenser and the Making of Literary Criticism

Princeton University Press
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Despite its canonical prestige, Edmund Spenser's epic six-part poem The Faerie Queene (1590-96) has never been easy or altogether pleasurable to read. As this book describes, the poem's first known reader, Spenser's friend Gabriel Harvey, did so under duress, and returned the manuscript with a plea that Spenser write something else instead. Virginia Woolf's tongue-in-cheek advice to twentieth-century readers eager to cultivate a taste for The Faerie Queene-The first essential is, of course, not to read The Faerie Queene"-sums up a tradition of readerly resistance to the poem. As a consequence of its difficulty, the poem has an extraordinary capacity to induce doubt in readers-about Spenser, about themselves, and about the enterprise of reading itself. Each of the six chapters in Nicholson's book considers the poem through the lens of a different readership: scholars; schoolchildren; compilers of commonplace books, who value specific elements about the poem; Queen Elizabeth, the ostensible subject of the poem; and readers who, across the centuries, ultimately failed to understand the poem. Rather than tell us how to read Spenser's work, Nicholson describes how these individual readers, from learned scholars to precocious schoolboys, jealous queens to algorithmic search engines, have generated meaning and pleasure from an unusual and difficult text. Throughout, the author argues that that The Faerie Queene can be read not simply as literature but as literary theory, a reflection on what reading does to texts, readers, and the worlds they live in"--


  • | Author: Catherine Nicholson
  • | Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • | Publication Date: May 26, 2020
  • | Number of Pages: 312 pages
  • | Language: English
  • | Binding: Hardcover
  • | ISBN-10: 0691176787
  • | ISBN-13: 9780691176789
Author:
Catherine Nicholson
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication Date:
May 26, 2020
Number of pages:
312 pages
Language:
English
Binding:
Hardcover
ISBN-10:
0691176787
ISBN-13:
9780691176789