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Poetry in a World of ThingsAesthetics and Empiricism in Renaissance Ekphrasis$
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Rachel Eisendrath

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226516585

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226516752.001.0001

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Here Comes Objectivity: Spenser’s 1590 The Faerie Queene, Book 3

Here Comes Objectivity: Spenser’s 1590 The Faerie Queene, Book 3

(p.49) Chapter Three Here Comes Objectivity: Spenser’s 1590 The Faerie Queene, Book 3
Poetry in a World of Things

Rachel Eisendrath

University of Chicago Press

Focusing on ekphrases in the final cantos of Spenser’s 1590 The Faerie Queene, this chapter explores how Spenser constructs Britomart’s passage through the House of Busirane so that her transitions from one room to another parallel larger intellectual developments of the period, specifically the movement toward objectivity. In the first room of this evil house, the heroine encounters tapestries that represent the protean and dangerously erotic realms of the imagination that are so vivid they seem alive. As Britomart proceeds into the next room, though, she learns to detach herself from what she sees, with the result that the grotesques found in the second room now appear as dusty antiquarian objects that she observes from the distanced position of an observer. However, even as it constructs this transition, Spenser’s poetry brings to the surface the experience of loss associated with this detachment of subject from object. In the final analysis, Spenser's highly imaginative poetry depends on the very same interfusion of subject and object that his poetry also seeks to reject.

Keywords:   ekphrasis, grotesque, Edmund Spenser, Busirane, detachment, objectivity, imagination, Francis Bacon, subjectivity, antiquarianism

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