Spenser's Genres

Colin Burrow

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 Genres

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


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This article examines Spenser's treatments of genres. Spenser was influenced by classical genre theorists, who on the whole are straightforwardly taxonomic. They characteristically assume that genres cannot change, that texts can only belong to one genre, and that works of literature can be assigned to one of these unchanging categories on the basis of intrinsically distinct properties. It is because Spenser learnt more from the way classical poets treated genre than he did from the more rigid principles of classical theorists that modern genre theory can help in reading his verse: he expected his readers to recognize the ways in which he continually adapts and alters each of the major genres to which he made a contribution, and to attempt to identify genres and modal variations as they fly past.

Keywords: classical genre; genre theory; classical poets; distinct properties

Article.  8625 words. 

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

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