Spenser's Biographers

Paul D. Stegner

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's Biographers

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


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This article reviews Spenser's biographies from the sixteenth to the twenty-first centuries. In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, biographers typically composed short notices and ‘character-sketches’ that offered personal and sometimes intimate details, but often made no effort to construct a larger chronological account. It was not until the eighteenth century that biographers concentrated on ‘the personal and the private life, the life of the inner man’. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, biography moved away from psychological analysis and became more ‘patriotic and exemplary’. Biographies of Spenser that appeared during this period highlighted Spenser's contributions not only to the English literary tradition, but also to the formation of a national cultural identity. By the mid-twentieth century, biographers challenged this depiction of Spenser as they increasingly situated his life and career within a variety of historical and cultural contexts.

Keywords: biographies; biographers; life; career

Article.  10011 words. 

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

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