The Pleasing Analysis of The Faerie Queene

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2023


University of North Carolina Press

Source Publication

Studies in Philology

Source ISSN


Original Item ID

DOI: 10.1353/sip.2023.0001


In his "Letter to Raleigh," Edmund Spenser describes his project using the strange and provocative term analysis. This essay explores three ways in which the Ramist ideas closely associated with this term can inform our understanding of The Faerie Queene. First, since analysis recalls Ramism's ideal of analytical method, organization of matter in a descent from the most general principles to the more special and obscure, the poem might be approached as an analysis of virtue ethics, with concepts sequenced and divided methodically. Second, the "Letter" excuses out-of-order poetry by the second or imperfect method, crypsis. Spenser's disclaimer about his "method" as poet historical does not necessarily abnegate logic: we may consider that by puzzling, cryptical features we are alerted to a hidden order, so that an analysis of virtue becomes a pleasing analysis. Third, analysis might refer not just to the poet's project but to readerly exercise. In analyzing the virtue-knights' efforts at invention and judgment, we exercise our own. Ramist commentary on these senses of analysis is represented by William Temple, Abraham Fraunce, Gabriel Harvey, and Ramus himself. Readerly analytical exercise is illustrated by the parallel failures of logic of the Redcrosse Knight and Artegall.


Studies in Philology, Vol. 120, No. 1 (Winter 2023): 33-69. DOI.