The Formalist Tradition

David Scott Wilson‐Okamura

in The Oxford Handbook of Edmund Spenser

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

 The Formalist Tradition

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This article focuses on the formalist tradition in Spenser criticism. The word formalist was coined, apparently, by Sir Francis Bacon as a term of abuse for faux intellectuals: those laborious hair-splitters who ‘do nothing or little very solemnly’. History, though, has been on the side of the formalists. Critics have been writing about Spenser for more than four centuries, and for the first three of those centuries, most critics wrote about subjects which today would be classified as formalist. The recurring issues in Spenser criticism — the ones that critics have come back to, not just decade after decade, but century after century — have historically been questions about form. In particular, what is the effect of Spenser's dialect and archaic diction? What is the nature of his stanza? And what, if anything, confers unity on his The Faerie Queene?

Keywords: formalist; Sir Francis Bacon; Spenser criticism; form; The Faerie Queene

Article.  7342 words. 

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

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