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Becoming ChristianRace, Reformation, and Early Modern English Romance$
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Dennis Austin Britton

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780823257140

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823257140.001.0001

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Ovidian Baptism in Book 2 of The Faerie Queene

Ovidian Baptism in Book 2 of The Faerie Queene

Chapter:
(p.59) 2. Ovidian Baptism in Book 2 of The Faerie Queene
Source:
Becoming Christian
Author(s):

Dennis Austin Britton

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823257140.003.0003

Chapter 2 argues that Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene is unable to imagine that a Saracen knight like Pyrochles can “renounce [his] miscreaunce” because of emergent early modern concepts of unalterable racial difference, difference that Reformation baptism could not erase. The Nymph’s well episode at the beginning of Book 2 has long been read as registering sixteenth-century theological controversies about baptism, but this chapter explores why Spenser uses Ovid to intervene in theological debates. Spenser uses Ovid’s Metamorphoses, in which characters retain a portion of their premetamorphosis identities, to suggest that no mode of transformation—be it through romance, baptism, or allegory—can erase all aspects of originary identity. Moreover, the very concept of transformation cannot be reconciled with the epic’s intention to fashion a racially pure and religiously stable Protestant national identity.

Keywords:   Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, Ovid, Metamorphoses, racial difference, baptism, national identity, epic, romance, allegory

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