Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
John E. Curran
One of the major claims this study makes is that Spenser desires to teach and cultivate a poetic reader--a reader who will employ interpretation and contemplation to expand the possibilities and places of textual meaning according to the tutelage of Spenser's text. The basis for Spenser's exegetical schema derives in large part from the works of St. Augustine and Richard Hooker. In works such as On Christian Doctrine and the Confessions, Augustine erects a Scriptural interpretative model founded upon charity and faith--a model interested in the process of exegesis as much as the end products of the analysis. Similarly, in Of The Lawes of Ecclesiastical Polity, Hooker views reason as a force that can aid the Scriptural interpreter in both understanding Scriptural passages, and, ultimately, extending the scope of Scriptural interpretation to include the outside knowledge of things indifferent. By drawing upon Scriptural reading schemas s/he already possesses, a reader can use poetry as a space to expand his/her knowledge of Scriptural principles, and, in turn, gain a better understanding of Scripture and poetry.
Spenser's interpretative schema encourages identification, interpretation, and contemplation in order to generate multiple possible meanings. From these options, a reader is taught to choose from many potential meanings, instead of the one or two that comes from either/or perception. This examination argues that a reader can learn from the successes and mistakes of Spenser's characters. For example, in Spenser's pastorals, Colin Clout is a character who begins as a lovelorn youth, unable to see past his heartbreak. Yet, by interpreting his experiences he learns how to perceive beyond emotions in order to gain knowledge. Moreover, he teaches his shepherd peers to do the same. In The Faerie Queene, characters such as Redcrosse, Artegall, Calidore, and Arthur all animate Spenser's interpretative model in various ways with varying degrees of success. Redcrosse is inexperienced yet desires to learn, whereas Calidore possesses knightly experience, yet refuses to interpret beyond sensory perception. However, Artegall and Arthur, begin with solid interpretative foundations and are successful because they allow interpretation and contemplation to influence their knightly actions.