Spenser's Dark Materials: Representation in the Shadow of Christ

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:
Spenser's Dark Materials: Representation in the Shadow of Christ

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This chapter examines a further consequence of the derogation of the suffering Christ that coincides with the rise of the virulence of Protestant iconoclasm and that implies a fundamental shift in notions of representation. I argue that Spenser's obvious concern for the potentially idolatrous nature of poetic representation conceals a deeper fascination with its materiality. As representations of the body of Christ wane in post-Reformation England so too does the mediating power of Christ's body. Spenser‟s “satire” of Catholicism reveals an attempt to find in idolatry a productive discourse for imagining mediation; that is for construing the relationship between words and things. This desire for mediation in the wake of an absent Eucharistic or incarnational poetics appears in a shadow world of materiality in the Legend of Holiness: dark forests, monstrous bodies, women's bodies, dreams, Hesiodic cosmogonies, and harrowing underworlds. Spenser‟s interest in the “evil” materiality of a shadow world of idolatry reveals an attempt to forge in the world of organic matter a new contract to mediate emerging disjunctions between words and things, matter and form, flesh and spirit.

Keywords: Spenser; representation; materiality; body of Christ; Reformation; Eucharist; incarnational poetics; Legend of Holiness

Chapter.  11992 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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