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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.
- 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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- PublicationAfter the Mutabilitie Cantos: Yeats and Heaney Reading Spenser(Manchester University Press, 2010-07)When 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.