Searching for Spenser's Popular Voice

Shinn, Abigail. 2018. Searching for Spenser's Popular Voice. Spenser Review, 48(1.3), [Article]

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Abstract or Description

In the Epistle to The Shepheardes Calender (1579) E. K. states that Spenser is ‘following the example of the best and most Auncient Poetes’ with his first independent publication. An often-repeated statement on the part of Elizabethan writers, a claim for classical inheritance here reflects the Calender’s debts to the genre of pastoral.[1] The range of influences on Spenser’s output which accord with classical and élite European literary sources is extensive, from Virgil, Marot and Petrarch to Du Bellay and Ariosto. His debt to English writers such as Chaucer and Skelton is also made explicit, particularly in the prefatory material appended to the Calender. All of these authorities point to a hyper-literate readership who recognise Spenser’s borrowings and associations, a readership from which Spenser could potentially elicit patronage. To locate Spenser’s work only within this élite sphere of literary production is, however, to limit the range and scope of his cultural eclecticism. I believe that it is also possible to find within his poetry an engagement with what we might term a popular voice. To ignore Spenser’s cultural breadth is to constrain our understanding of his work’s hybridity and for all of the difficulties associated with defining or excavating the popular it is important that we acknowledge Spenser’s interest in modes of storytelling which belong to non élite spheres of cultural production...

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature


7 January 2018Accepted
January 2018Published

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Date Deposited:

13 Feb 2018 14:58

Last Modified:

14 Feb 2018 11:33

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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