Article

Spenser's Language(s): Linguistic Theory and Poetic Diction

Dorothy Stephens

in The Oxford Handbook of Edmund Spenser

Published in print October 2010 | ISBN: 9780199227365
Published online September 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199227365.013.0021

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

Spenser's Language(s): Linguistic Theory and Poetic Diction

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A poet's employment of unusual forms of language is more often admired than disliked by critics of modern and contemporary poetry, yet Spenserian scholars have often felt it necessary to defend Spenser by arguing either that he was a great poet despite his abuse of the language or that his abuse of the language has been greatly exaggerated. This article looks at the pre-existing theories upon which Spenser drew in order to make sense of his diction. Spenser's idiosyncratic modifications of Elizabethan English diction demonstrate that he followed neither the Continental linguists nor the English linguists slavishly, instead formulating his own blend of practices. Exactly what motivated Spenser's pattern of choices is still under debate — though, not surprisingly, recent theories tend to focus upon various political and ideological motives.

Keywords: language; diction; linguistics; Elizabethan English

Article.  8666 words. 

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

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