Reading Bleeding Trees: The Poetics of Other People's Pain

Joseph Campana

in The Pain of Reformation

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780823239108
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780823239146 | DOI:
Reading Bleeding Trees: The Poetics of Other People's Pain

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This chapter examines the conflict Spenser encountered between the project of exploring vulnerability and the imperatives of religious and cultural life in the wake of the Reformation with respect to declining representations of the suffering Christ. This chapter traces the contours of such waning representation in the disdain for pain and compassion in Protestant theology and practice. As Protestant devotion increasingly excludes the suffering Christ it also renders idolatrous both pain and compassion, which activate and affect the body that ought to demonstrate submission and obedience, as the writings of Jean Calvin and William Tyndale dictate. Spenser exposes the consequences of excising an active sense of the vulnerable body as Una embodies an alliance between beauty and iconoclastic violence and Redcrosse dramatizes the replacement of integrative suffering with pain as punishment for or heroic fortitude against sensation. Spenser notices how iconoclastic assaults on the suffering body imply an assault on the capacity to imagine the pain of others. Thus he deploys the marvelous epic trope of the bleeding tree to provide an alternative to the lost figure of the suffering Christ.

Keywords: Spenser; Idolatry; iconoclasm; Christ; Calvin; Tyndale; violence; epic; suffering; Legend of Holiness

Chapter.  10925 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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