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Edmund Spenser and the popular press

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posted on 2023-06-07, 15:26 authored by Abigail Naomi Shinn
This thesis examines the relationship between the work of the sixteenth century English poet Edmund Spenser and the popular press. Previous critical debate has focused upon Spenser?s debt to the classical traditions of epic, pastoral and georgic, and the work of Italian poets such as Ariosto, rather than considering the role played by more ephemeral and cheap English publications; my research helps to readdress this imbalance. By combining a close reading of Spenser?s work with an analysis of widely available publications such as almanacs, books of husbandry, calendars, Elizabethan storybooks, the book of Raynarde the Foxe and the Golden Legend, I have endeavoured to open out Spenser?s literary environment to include the popular. This has involved an analysis of popular publications in relation to theories of copia and encyclopaedic reading practices and demonstrates that Spenser was fascinated by the process of publication as well as the mental and physiological effects of reading. My research includes an analysis of the continuities between medieval and early modern texts, the body as text and the text as relic, the eye as a conduit for lust and iconographic creation, the problems of defining readership and reader response, the blurring of religious iconography across the boundaries of Protestant and Catholic expression, the mutability of time systems and the ramifications of counsel and censorship. This work contributes to studies concerned with the history of the book and the rise of print culture, while also adding to the critical body of Spenser studies. This thesis has an interdisciplinary focus and draws upon the work of historians such as Peter Burke, Tessa Watt and Elizabeth Eisenstein alongside works of literary criticism.


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  • English Theses

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  • doctoral

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  • dphil


  • eng


University of Sussex

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