|dc.description.abstract||"The world, is changed with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil."
For 'the world' read 'moral man', and Hopkins's lines would be the
perfect epigraph to Die Faerie Queene, defining both its theme and
its mode. Or so this thesis contends. It re-examines Spenser's
Letter to Ralegh, so often ignored or even maligned, to find that it
makes sense, both internally and with reference to the poem, on two
conditions. One is that we grasp the poet's conceptual argument,
according to which morality manifests redemption in Christ and thus
constitutes the earthly anticipation of heavenly glory. The other
is that, for once, we take him literally when he calls his work a
continued allegory. Both points are developed in detail, but the
latter receives all the emphasis, partly because it concerns a more
strictly literary issue and partly because it is highly controversial.
To be sure, existing criticism takes for granted the poem's status
as allegory. Yet it persists in treating its fiction as narrative.
Spenser makes such treatment logically impossible. He invites it
only to expose the stories' illusoriness, thus directing the reader
to take them as symbols, not exempla. Literally the whole poem
falls to pieces, which are united exclusively in virtue of their
allegorical meaning. This unity is given. Yet interpretation has
to struggle endlessly to work it out: it reveals itself only
intermittently, in flashes. Salvation, too, is given. Yet morality
has to battle continuously to work it out, being only an elusive
intimation of immortality. The poem's mode enacts its theme.
Chapter One gets The Faerie Queene as a whole into proper
perspective. Chapters Two and Three each discuss a 'narrative
strand' in the Kiddle Books; a strategic choice, in that these Books
challenge the relevance of the Letter's programme more obviously than
any of the Outer Books.||en