1st Edition

Spenser's Irish Work Poetry, Plantation and Colonial Reformation

By Thomas Herron Copyright 2007

    Exploring Edmund Spenser's writings within the historical and aesthetic context of colonial agricultural reform in Ireland, his adopted home, this study demonstrates how Irish events and influences operate in far more of Spenser's work than previously suspected. Thomas Herron explores Spenser's relation to contemporary English poets and polemicists in Munster, such as Sir Walter Raleigh, Ralph Birkenshaw and Parr Lane, as well as heretofore neglected Irish material in Elizabethan pageantry in the 1590s, such as the famously elaborate state performances at Elvetham and Rycote. New light is shed here on the Irish significance of both the earlier and later Books of The Fairie Queene. Herron examines in depth Spenser's adaptation of the paradigm of the laboring artist for empire found in Virgil's Georgics, which Herron weaves explicitly with Spenser's experience as an administrator, property owner and planter in Ireland. Taking in history, religion, geography, classics and colonial studies, as well as early modern literature and Irish studies, this book constitutes a valuable addition to Spenser scholarship.

    Contents: Introduction: ruin or monument? Cultivating optimism in early modern Ireland. Part 1 Finding Spenser's Ireland: Spenser and the anxious critics; Spenser's plantation life; Planting Reformation in Ireland: Walshe, Smith, Robinson and Bryskett; Spenser's heroic legacy in Munster verse: Ralph Birkenshaw and Parr Lane. Part 2 Creating The Faerie Queene: Rethinking Book I from Within a Georgic-Irish Paradigm: Elemental violence and the Virgilian ladder; Flourishing monarchs: Virgil's Georgics, Gavin Douglas, and the Proem to The Faerie Queene; Plain thinking and civic celebration in Book I. Part 3 Local Adversity and Apocalyptic triumph: Books V, VI and VII of The Faerie Queene: Imperial coda: Elizabethan progress and 'The Mutabilitie Cantos'; 'Pagan hound': Cúchulainn, the Souldan and the Spanish Armada in Book V; Taming Raleigh's beast: monastic dissolution and local politics in Book VI; Bibliography; Index.


    Thomas Herron is Assistant Professor of English at East Carolina University, USA.

    'A scholarly look beyond the debilitating anxieties of some Spenser criticism towards Spenser's Irish elements. ... A superb addition to the gathering wave of historical approaches to Spenser. The effective entry of real history into reading Spenser has profound results for interpretation and understanding ... Herron sets a high example which cannot be ignored.' J. B. Lethbridge, Tübingen University ’The arguments are well presented and cogently argued... the cross disciplinary nature of the study, incorporating history, geography, theology, colonial studies makes it a valuable addition to the already voluminous writings on the poet.’ North Munster Antiquarian Journal ’The meticulous crossreferencing of Calidore’s showdown with the Blatant Beast in a ruined monastery to ex-monastic lands in Ireland exemplifies Herron’s methodology of amassing historical, topographical, and linguistic details around some of Spenser’s more enigmatic and troubling allegories. More than simply an exercise in nuanced close-reading or assiduous historical interpretation, Herron’s book offers a valuable addition to the ongoing work of establishing and understanding Spenser’s Irish place in colonial Ireland. It also demonstrates the rewards to be gained for the study of Spenser’s biography from the (once unfashionable) critical practice of using the poet’s own verse-now carefully situated in context-to shed light on his life and career... This book will surely pave the way for further extended treatments of the questions and sources of evidence covered here.’ Notes and Queries