University of Sussex

File(s) not publicly available

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

posted on 2023-06-09, 15:10 authored by Rachel StennerRachel Stenner
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.


Publication status

  • Published


Palgrave Macmillan

Page range




Book title

The Palgrave handbook of animals in literature

Place of publication





Palgrave Studies in Animals and Literature

Department affiliated with

  • English Publications

Research groups affiliated with

  • Centre for Early Modern and Medieval Studies Publications

Full text available

  • No

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes


Robert McKay, Susan McHugh, John Miller

Legacy Posted Date


Usage metrics

    University of Sussex (Publications)


    No categories selected