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“To ‘maister the Circumstance’: Mulcaster’s Positions and Spenser’s Faerie Queene.”
Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Education, Department of Languages. (Den kulturvetenskapliga forskningsgruppen)
2020 (English)In: Spenser Studies: A Renaissance Poetry Annual, ISSN 0195-9468, Vol. 34, p. 1-24Article in journal (Refereed) In press
Abstract [en]

This essay argues that the prominent Elizabethan pedagogue Richard Mulcaster exerted a considerable influence on the narrative strategies of his pupil Edmund Spenser, especially as seen in Book I of The Faerie Queene. Where recent scholars such as Jeff Dolven and Andrew Wallace have maintained that Spenser was critical of many of the humanist practices they deem prevalent in the Elizabethan classroom, this study shows that such critique of humanism was already a basic part of the reformed curriculum at Merchant Taylors’ School, where Spenser received his early training under Mulcaster. The essay first provides a reading of Mulcaster’s main pedagogical text, Positions (1581), and then applies its key concepts to a reading of Book I of Spenser’s poem with a double emphasis on the hero of the poem, Redcrosse, and on the reader’s interaction with the text. The most important of these concepts is the seemingly innocuous term “circumstance.” Aside from being a key concept within forensic oratory, to “maister the circumstance” is for Mulcaster a shorthand for a cautious approach to the classical text studied in his classroom. The same strategy, this essay argues, is implemented in the poem. The reader must pay attention to the circumstances, with their rhetorical, pedagogical, and theological connotations, triggered in large part by the apparent inability of Redcrosse, the putative hero of the book, to do so. Additionally, as a subcategory of the rhetorical connotations, there is also the need to assess the use of names in the poem.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Chigago: University of Chicago Press, 2020. Vol. 34, p. 1-24
Keywords [en]
Spenser, Mulcaster, Education, Reformation
National Category
Languages and Literature
Research subject
English
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-75431OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-75431DiVA, id: diva2:1362996
Available from: 2019-10-22 Created: 2019-10-22 Last updated: 2019-10-22

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Bergvall, Åke

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
  • apa
  • harvard1
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  • vancouver
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More styles
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  • de-DE
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More languages
Output format
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