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- PublicationSpenser's Lost Children(Ams Press, 2013-12)This essay gathers together the work of a self-selecting group of Irish poets, novelists and dramatists of the last century who directly confront Spenser and his writing in their own work. It tentatively identifies this engagement with Spenser as a crucial step in their self-conscious construction of–and attempt to enter into–a modern Irish literary tradition. Although a lways a very individual kind of entanglement, the sum of these negotiations of Spenser and his poetic legacy in Ireland testifies to the very depth and intricacy of Spenser’s roots in any version of the Irish literary tradition. But it is the writers themselves who put it best.
- PublicationThe Not-Forgotten Empire: Images of Persia in English Renaissance Writing(Wiley, 2010-09-02)This essay argues that the image of Persia is a familiar, largely positive and particularly compelling one for English Renaissance readers and writers. It surveys the range of sources of information available, and the kinds of uses to which they were put. Challenging the weight of recent scholarship on the Ottomans which presents them writ large as the representatives of the 'East' for English audiences and readers, I hope to show that the distinctiveness of Persia in the English imagination is an important counter-weight to this sense of Eastern difference predicated on conceptions of Ottoman threat.
- PublicationIntroductionHowever uncertain their literary status, however belated their appearance, the Mutabilitie Cantos comprise probably the most challenging, complex and surprising part of Spenser’s poem, England’s first national epic. Yet Spenser had been dead ten years by 1609, and the first readers of the Cantos lived in a radically changed political landscape, with a Stuart king, peace with Spain, calmer days in Ireland and, for the first time, a relatively unified and peaceable ‘Great Britain’.
- Publication'A warre ... commodious': Dramatizing Islamic Schism in and after Tamburlaine(University of Texas Press, 2012)The purpose of this essay is to show how the Tamburlaine plays, by dramatizing intra-Islamic conflict between an insistently Persian Tamburlaine and his Turkish enemies, and Tamburlaine’s extraordinary military successes and imperial gains, engage intensely and provocatively with religious schism and imperial sovereignty, two abiding and interlocked political concerns of late-Elizabethan London. And they do so in full consciousness of their domestic relevance and interest, I argue. Marlowe’s exploration of Tamburlaine’s imperial drive thus articulates and tests his contemporaries’ interest in classical Persian models of empire and in the contemporary Persian schismatic stance within the Islamic world. Finally, my essay considers the surprisingly muted legacy of Marlowe’s dramatization of Islamic schism on the early modern stage. The essay concludes by focussing on the single play of the era that responds most strongly and sensitively to Marlowe’s Tamburlaine plays: The Travailes of the Three English Brothers (1607). Here, once again, we find rehearsed their agenda to test English imperial fantasies mediated through the Persian model and facilitated in their dreaming by the schism dividing Persia from its more powerful Ottoman neighbours.
- PublicationAfter the Mutabilitie Cantos: Yeats and Heaney Reading SpenserWhen Yeats first turned to Spenser in a professional way, it was a chance opportunity to generate some income. ‘It is good pay,’ he wrote to his friend, Lady Augusta Gregory, and ‘I may do it if I have not to do it at once. I have a good deal to say about Spenser but tremble at the thought of reading his six books.’ He was writing of the invitation he had just received from an Edinburgh publisher to select and introduce Spenser’s poetry for their ‘Golden Poets’ series. That close encounter, when in due course it ensued, was to provide Yeats with several crucial things that he didn’t yet know he was looking for. What he ultimately found in Spenser was a potent model of Irish poetry in English in Ireland, a Protestant poetic progenitor and with it, an originary tradition for his own poetry.
- Publication'So liuely and so like, that liuing sence it fayld': enargeia and ekphrasis in The Faerie Queene(Taylor and Francis, 2009)In the Letter to Ralegh accompanying the 1590 Books of The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spenser explains that precisely because his poem is ‘a continued allegory, or darke conceit, I haue thought good aswell for auoyding of gealous opinions and misconstructions, as also for your better light in reading thereof... to discouer vnto you the general intention and meaning, which in the whole course thereof I haue fashioned’. In using these terms, Spenser signals his understanding of allegory as a challenging, esoteric discipline, one for which his readers will need this clarification.
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- Publication'Headless Rome' and Hungry Goths: Herodotus and Titus Andronicus(Wiley, 2013-12)This essay argues for the intertextual contribution of Book I of Herodotus's Histories to Titus Andronicus. Translated by B.R. in 1584, Herodotus’ account of the rise and fall of the founder of the ancient Persian empire, Cyrus the Great, holds topical resonances for the first audiences of Shakespeare's Roman play, resonances that the play seems to invite. Modeling Tamora on Herodotus' Tomyris and borrowing crucial elements of plot from the narratives surrounding Cyrus, Shakespeare's most productive response to Herodotus is his adaptation of the figure of the 'swallowing womb' from the well-known Herodotean account of Tomyris' revenge on Cyrus. Through it, Shakespeare explores the contentious and topical subjects of female rule and England's imperial aspirations. The essay further explores possible connections between Tamora and Queen Elizabeth through their shared iconography in the mold of the just avenger, Tomyris. Ultimately, I argue, the Herodotean allusions facilitate a position sympathetic to the Goths in the play, one that tackles the dominance of Roman cultural models in late-sixteenth-century English culture, and that responds defiantly to the vexed and embarrassing subject of Britain's own barbarian history as a colony of Rome.
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