Vulnerable Subjects: Amoret's Agony, Britomart's Battle for Chastity

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:
Vulnerable Subjects: Amoret's Agony, Britomart's Battle for Chastity

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“The Legend of Chastity” and witness the culmination of Spenser's project of epic disarmament and of the reformation of heroic masculinity. In chapter five, I argue that the action of the Legend of Chastity responds to a crisis of masculinity dramatized through the erotic scenarios central to the conventions of romance narrative and Petrarchan lyric. Whereas romance positions women as the objects of violent, masculine desire, Petrarchan sonnets elevate the beloved to a position of violent supremacy and power, leaving the man to suffer abjectly the woman's wrath and disdain. The interlocking nature of these discourses produces a seemingly inescapable dialectic of violence and victimization that devolves painfully on the bodies of women. While many identify Spenser with the vicious sadomasochism in early modern erotic discourse. I argue that have critics failed to understand that Spenser's solution to the crisis of masculinity in the 1590 Faerie Queene comes as sympathetic identification that occurs through the masochistic theatricality of the Petrarchan lyric. Spenser positions the male poet as the tortured Amoret who can only be rescued by the female knight Britomart. Amoret and Britomart come to represent the reformation of masculinity through sympathetic identification across gender and the articulation of sympathetic sociality as an ideal.

Keywords: Spenser; Petrarchan poetry; romance; erotic violence; female homoeroticism; sexuality; Amoret; Legend of Chastity

Chapter.  15372 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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