Edmund Spenser's bestiary in the Amoretti (1595)

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Edmund Spenser's sonnet sequence, the Amoretti (1595), has long been considered a minor work, and has rarely been discussed in terms of its gender politics. This essay shows, through a careful reading of an interrelated group of sonnets, how Spenser examines the extreme difficulty of rewriting the traditional male perspective of Petrarchan poetry so as to advance towards a recognition of the beloved's subjectivity. The essay concentrates on Spenser's manipulation of a series of topical figures of speech, based on animal motifs, which are used in the poems to represent the female addressee, and thus to define her from a male viewpoint. Spenser's clever modification of his sources (Pliny the Elder and Petrarch, especially) always emphasises the speaker's projection of his own fears towards the figure of the beloved, until the moment of role-reversal occurring in sonnet 67, when the expression of her own will leads the speaker to overcome the shortcomings of his perspective and rhetoric. The article also presents evidence for some hitherto unidentified Latin sources used by Spenser in some of the sonnets.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-58
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2002


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