Spenser and Religion

Claire McEachern

in The Oxford Handbook of Edmund Spenser

Published in print October 2010 | ISBN: 9780199227365
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

Spenser and Religion

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  • Literature
  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)
  • Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)



This article explores the religious dimensions of Spenser's poetry, which are indebted to a contention-ridden — that is, richly dramatic — landscape of Elizabethan religious identities. His poetry can picture this terrain in terms of antithesis, and perhaps as a result readers have often sought to identify him with myriad political and doctrinal positions along the spectrum of Reformation Christianity. But it is important to remember that in the 1570s and 1580s, the years during which Spenser came of age both poetically and politically, many of the divisions and parties teased out by the events of the following seventy years were as yet intertwined. His poetry thus owes as much to the centripetal as the centrifugal tendencies of contemporary confessional persuasions. Its religious aspects are conditioned not only by Spenser's hallmark syncretism, or the ‘middle way’ of the Elizabethan religious settlement, but the nature of the Elizabethan church in its inaugural decades.

Keywords: poetry; poets; Elizabethan religious identities; syncretism; Elizabethan church

Article.  9528 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800) ; Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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