Marriage, closure, and constructing the feminine in Spenser's world.
AuthorHollings, Marion Doreen.
Committee ChairUlreich, John C.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractEach chapter of this study explores the idea of "subjectivity" in relation to narrative closure and a construction of the feminine. The chapters examine cruxes that share a critical heritage emphasizing the author's achievement of "harmony." My reexamination of the "harmony" foregrounds a fracturing, which occurs within the trope of "Marriage," the cornerstone of Spenser's metaphysics of continuity. I contend that the crucial moments of closure are attempts to harmonize via a metaphor of union--marriage--but that the union figured is instinct with tensions most evident in an ambivalence, indeed in a "polyvalence," surrounding and permeating representations of powerful female figures. In developing this idea, I explore two of Spenser's major works: the so-called "wedding volume," including the Amoretti and the Epithalamion, and The Faerie Queene. I treat the "wedding volume" as a "whole" made up of two "parts." The first "part"--the Amoretti sonnet sequence--has commonly been seen to achieve a type of harmony. Chapter 1 examines closely the loss that actually problematizes the sequence's "achievement." The ambiguous "Anacreontics" magnify the problematic closure of the sequence. Chapter 2 discusses the Epithalamion's peculiar "cutting off" as it repeats this problem of a harmonic closure permeated by fragmenting anxieties surrounding union with the feminine (or Spenser's construction of it). The next three chapters address the crucial moments of closure in The Faerie Queene, moments that have generally been viewed as magnificently harmonic and transcendent. Chapter 3 addresses Duessa's disruption of the wedding closing Book 1; chapter 4 deals with the displaced 1590 closing of "Part One" of The Faerie Queene; and chapter 5 examines the "unperfect" Mutabilitie Cantos closing the entire project. If we read the union of contraries in Spenser's metaphysics as a kind of "marriage," each of these chapters involves a marriage drama underwritten by the subject's profound ambivalence toward the principle of the feminine that he has constructed and on which his harmonizing--with its attendant implications for the subject in history--depends.