Authorial Self‐Presentation

Richard A. McCabe

in The Oxford Handbook of Edmund Spenser

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

 Authorial Self‐Presentation

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


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The creation of an authorial ‘persona’ is arguably the principal means by which a poet negotiates his own ‘canonicity’, engaging in a dialogue with posterity through the contemporary reader. It involves not just the textual ‘I’ of the poetic speaker, but the paratextual ‘I’ of the dedicator, commentator, and explicator. This article argues that Spenser's various personae are sophisticated rhetorical devices designed to appropriate the readerly ‘you’ into an appreciative ‘we’. Daniel's 1594 reference to ‘our Spencer’ testifies to the success of the endeavour, but Spenser was equally well equipped to make aesthetic capital out of apparent rejection. To adopt such an approach to self-presentation is to restore it to the rhetorical category of ‘ethos’ or characterization, and particularly to the art of persuasion through characterization. It is to recognize in the illusion of a professedly confessional or lyrical mode an ongoing process of adjustment to the ever-changing demands of genre, circumstance, and audience.

Keywords: authorial persona; poets; canonicity; rhetoric; self-representation

Article.  10721 words. 

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

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