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The Poetics of Ruins in Renaissance Literature$
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Andrew Hui

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780823273355

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823273355.001.0001

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Spenser’s Moniment and the Allegory of Ruins

Spenser’s Moniment and the Allegory of Ruins

(p.177) Chapter 6 Spenser’s Moniment and the Allegory of Ruins
The Poetics of Ruins in Renaissance Literature

Andrew Hui

Fordham University Press

This chapter argues that Spenser’s career, punctuated in an analogous way by the word moniment, not only measures the distance his writings have traversed, but also maps a larger itinerary of his poetic project which engages in a fundamental rethinking of the activities of monument-making and its dialectical other, ruination. In the English poet, monuments and ruins function as allegorical signifiers that shape both the content and the form of his work. The destruction of Roman temples in A Theatre for Voluptuous Worldings (1569) or The Ruines of Rome (1591) is a sort of righteous disenchantment. In the attempt to turn a ruin back to a monument, idolatry threatens to re-emerge, as in The Ruines of Time (1591). Monuments in The Faerie Queene (1590, 1596) are supposed to instruct; yet more often than not, they are on the verge of catastrophe. For Spenser, true, lasting monuments are those that spur the mind to action.

Keywords:   allegory, The Faerie Queen, iconoclasm, monuments, Spenser

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