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From the Fountain to the Well: Redcrosse Learns to Read

From the Fountain to the Well: Redcrosse Learns to Read by Hester Lees-Jeffries UCH attention has been paid to the unfinished, open, ``endlesse'' nature of Spenser's The Faerie Queene, in recent criticism in particular. I do not dispute this approach to the text: many of the labyrinthine, allusive and intertextual qualities that it has illuminated and elucidated are germane to my discussion. Yet book 1 of the poem is in many respects a highly ``finished,'' discrete literary unit; moreover, it is itself vitally concerned with beginnings and endings, origins and sources and, especially, the poet's own negotiations of their congruences and confluences. In this reading, I will suggest that in book 1 Spenser employs various kinds of fountains to explore ideas about sources (including the humanist return ad fontes), questions of genre, the relationship between landscape and narrative, Protestant history and polemic, and his own inheritances, responsibilities and anxieties as a poet. Some of what I will show and argue below is necessarily synthetic, juxtaposing some long-established strands of Spenser criticism. My focus on the fountains, however, is a fresh one, and aims to show that in Spenser's usage this figure is far from being either merely topographical set dressing or a dead metaphor. Rather, it is a http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Studies in Philology University of North Carolina Press

From the Fountain to the Well: Redcrosse Learns to Read

Studies in Philology , Volume 100 (2) – Jan 5, 2003

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Publisher
University of North Carolina Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2003 by The University of North Carolina Press.
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1543-0383
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Abstract

by Hester Lees-Jeffries UCH attention has been paid to the unfinished, open, ``endlesse'' nature of Spenser's The Faerie Queene, in recent criticism in particular. I do not dispute this approach to the text: many of the labyrinthine, allusive and intertextual qualities that it has illuminated and elucidated are germane to my discussion. Yet book 1 of the poem is in many respects a highly ``finished,'' discrete literary unit; moreover, it is itself vitally concerned with beginnings and endings, origins and sources and, especially, the poet's own negotiations of their congruences and confluences. In this reading, I will suggest that in book 1 Spenser employs various kinds of fountains to explore ideas about sources (including the humanist return ad fontes), questions of genre, the relationship between landscape and narrative, Protestant history and polemic, and his own inheritances, responsibilities and anxieties as a poet. Some of what I will show and argue below is necessarily synthetic, juxtaposing some long-established strands of Spenser criticism. My focus on the fountains, however, is a fresh one, and aims to show that in Spenser's usage this figure is far from being either merely topographical set dressing or a dead metaphor. Rather, it is a

Journal

Studies in PhilologyUniversity of North Carolina Press

Published: Jan 5, 2003

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