Spenser's Legal Language

Spenser's Legal Language

Law and Poetry in Early Modern England

Andrew Zurcher





Highlights Spenser's use of legal thought and language, resulting in new insights into his work.
Both English language and English political life underwent unprecedented change in the sixteenth century, creating acute linguistic and legal crises that, in Elizabeth I's later years, intersected in the pioneering poetry of Edmund Spenser. This volume explores Spenser's linguistic experimentation and his engagement with political, and particularly legal, thought and language in his major works, demonstrating by thorough lexical analysis and illustrative readings how Spenser figured the nation both descriptively and prescriptively. As a study of the language of The Faerie Queene, the book restores Spenser to his rightful place as a bold but scholarly linguistic innovator, the equal of contemporaries such as Skelton, Shakespeare, Nashe, and Donne. As an enquiry into Spenser's interest in contemporary politics and law, it exposes his serial and contentious engagements in contemporary political theory and practice, and indicates his substantial influence on his contemporaries and successors. Spenser emerges in this book as a poet peculiarly preoccupied with fashioning, or `applying', his reader to the lawful use of words and deeds.

ANDREW ZURCHER is Tutor and Director of Studies in English at Queens' College Cambridge.

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November 2007
308 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Studies in Renaissance Literature
ISBN: 9781843841333
Format: Hardback
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Reading Spenser's Language
`Pleasing Analysis': Renaissance Hermeneutics, Poetry, and the Law
Results: A Survey of Spenser's Legal Diction
Property and Contract in the Quests of Florimell and Amoret
Justice, Equity and Mercy in The Legend of Artegall
Courtesy and Prerogative in The Legend of S. Calidore
The Composition of the World: Managing Power in the Two Cantos of Mutabilitie
Lyric Opposition in Spenser, Shakespeare, and Donne
After Words
Glossary of Selected Legal Diction in The Fairie Queene


This is a passionate book, written by an author clearly appreciative of-and sensitive to-Spenser's poetic craft and the intellectual and linguistic choices that undergird it. JOURNAL OF BRITISH STUDIES
[A] subtle and provocative study....Essential reading for Spenserians and anyone concerned with the intersections between law, politics, and poetry. MLR
[The author's] lexical method often produces rich and original readings, and he builds a strong, inductive case for understanding The Faerie Queen as a sustained meditation on contracts and social bonding. STUDIES IN ENGLISH LITERATURE
Most impressive for its comprehensive presentation of Spenser's legal lexicon.[...]A learned and insightful contribution to Spenser studies. RENAISSANCE QUARTERLY

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