Spenser and the Visual Arts

Claire Preston

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 the Visual Arts

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From almost the beginning of his career, Spenser seems consciously to have referred his poetic images to the concretely painterly and plastic; and he was consistently recognized and applauded even in his own day for the rich, apparently ‘visual’ character of his poetry. The importance of the visual arts in Spenser is witnessed by the persistence of lavishly illustrated editions of The Faerie Queene, as well as some of his other poems, as late as the mid-twentieth century, and by the large body of opinion and scholarship which has devoted itself to discussions of Spenser's pictorial technique, identifications of specific pictorial referents and artistic styles behind certain Spenserian images, and speculation as to the kind of pictorial material which would have been available to him in England. All these interpretive strands firmly locate Spenser within the realm of the literary-pictorial. This article analyzes the nature of Spenser's relationship to the visual arts; what precisely is meant by Spenser's ‘pictorialism’, and the contingency of all the other matters of the Spenserian visual on such a definition.

Keywords: pictorialism; Spenserian visual; poetry; literary pictorial

Article.  9884 words. 

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

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