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Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queen

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Re: Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queen

Postby Larry W. » 12 Oct 2009, 02:08

Tuke wrote:
Larry W. wrote:.... Also, Spenser seems to be less popular then Shakespeare or Chaucer, whose writings are taught more often in college/university courses. Somehow, publishers don't feel they can make much money by printing a Spenser book designed for someone with a high school reading ability, which would include many of today's adults. :sad:

I don't think Spenser's language and style present that great of a problem for today's high school students. His colloquialisms and linguistic rhythm are often not dissimilar to, indeed reminiscent of, modern rap, Ebonics and hip hop. I think the real problem with teaching Spenser in public schools would be the preponderance of Holy Scripture references and allusions (there are over 500). There is no equivocal morality or gratuitous bawdiness in Spenser as in Chaucer and Shakespeare. Christians and infidels are clearly delineated. I would support any teacher courageous enough to try the Faerie Queene, but he might need a lawyer as well for common opponents such as the ACLU. After four decades I still remember the moral oasis The Screwtape Letters was for me in high school English class. We mostly studied postmodern secularists and deconstructionists (who were valiantly resisted by the Inklings).


I went to Christian schools all the way through-- high school, grade school, and college. I think I was very fortunate. :smile: All of the schools had very good to excellent academics-- especially the college I attended. For the public schools a translation of Spenser might not be too bad an idea, though of course it wouldn't be as good as the original. I grew up in a small town in Michigan with ordinary people who as young high school students might have had difficulty with some of the archaic language even though not all of the poem is so different from modern English. The edition I studied in college would have been a nightmare for most teenagers, although the poem itself would be understandable to them if offered in parts rather than the whole and in a more inviting, readable textbook. Getting young people to like literature depends on the teacher's talents, too. I had a high school English teacher and several college professors who could actually get you to like Shakespeare and they certainly were able to do the same with Chaucer and Spenser.

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Re: Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queen

Postby agingjb » 12 Oct 2009, 07:10

Shakespeare is usually presented with conventional "modern" spelling, which works well enough. If you look at an original text Shakespeare, then virtually every "different" word is easily seen to be roughly equivalent to its modern form:

"to dye, to sleepe/ No more; and by a sleepe, to say we end/ The Heart-ake, and the thousand Naturall shockes/ That Flesh is heyre too?"

but then we are very familiar with Shakespeare, and in any case he was partly (with Tyndale) responsible for modern English.

In the case of Chaucer the language is perceptibly different. It does make some sense to translate Chaucer - going beyond respelling. Chaucer wrote, of course, before printing.

In the case of Spenser, I suppose that he is right on the border. I can certainly see a case for a "modern spelling" edition for those words that do retain, approximately, their meaning. A personal note: I find the exchange between "v"s and "u"s in my Penguin Faerie Queene much more obvious, and slightly jarring, than any other variation in spelling.

I've always been curious about the extent to which Dante, before Chaucer and long before printing, is, I assume, completely accessible to modern Italians.
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Re: Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queen

Postby Adam Linton » 20 Oct 2009, 11:57

agingjb wrote:Shakespeare is usually presented with conventional "modern" spelling, which works well enough. If you look at an original text Shakespeare, then virtually every "different" word is easily seen to be roughly equivalent to its modern form:

"to dye, to sleepe/ No more; and by a sleepe, to say we end/ The Heart-ake, and the thousand Naturall shockes/ That Flesh is heyre too?"

but then we are very familiar with Shakespeare, and in any case he was partly (with Tyndale) responsible for modern English.


It occurs to me that in addition to what else has been mentioned, part of the issue with Shakespeare, as opposed to Spenser, is that Shakepeare--of course, speaking of the plays--is primarily meant to be heard, while The Faerie Queene, being a narrative poem, is meant both to be heard when read aloud and also seen on the page.

But we haven't mentioned the fact that even though Spenser and Shakespeare are after "the great vowel shift"--and hence, are essentially modern in their pronunciation--there are still significant differences in how Sixteenth Century English sounded, contrasted with today. There have been some Shakespeare productions with period pronunciation. It isn't that hard to adjust--but I don't expect such presentations would be that popular. And in this case, I don't know if there's that much benefit to it, either--aside from the curiosity factor.
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Re: Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queen

Postby rumzy » 23 Oct 2009, 17:33

Adam Linton wrote:There have been some Shakespeare productions with period pronunciation. It isn't that hard to adjust--but I don't expect such presentations would be that popular. And in this case, I don't know if there's that much benefit to it, either--aside from the curiosity factor.


I have heard a professor read some lines of Shakespeare using probable period pronunciation. In some cases, it really is a fuller experience because Shakespeare intended for the lines to sound a specific way and chose his words, and arranged those words, very carefully. Updating the pronunciation changes the sound and can even change the meter (for example words ending in "ed" may lose their last syllable). So there can be a very real benefit to preserving the original spelling and pronunciation of poetry.
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Re: Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queen

Postby Adam Linton » 23 Oct 2009, 17:35

rumzy wrote:
Adam Linton wrote:There have been some Shakespeare productions with period pronunciation. It isn't that hard to adjust--but I don't expect such presentations would be that popular. And in this case, I don't know if there's that much benefit to it, either--aside from the curiosity factor.


I have heard a professor read some lines of Shakespeare using probable period pronunciation. In some cases, it really is a fuller experience because Shakespeare intended for the lines to sound a specific way and chose his words, and arranged those words, very carefully. Updating the pronunciation changes the sound and can even change the meter (for example any words ending in "ed" lose their last syllable). So there can be a very real benefit to preserving the original spelling and pronunciation of poetry.


I can see your point--very well taken; thanks!
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Re: Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queen

Postby rumzy » 23 Oct 2009, 17:43

By the way, I just bought The Faerie Queen to read for the first time. Is anyone else reading it right now? I'd love to hear your thoughts as you go along.
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Re: Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queen

Postby Adam Linton » 23 Oct 2009, 17:47

rumzy wrote:By the way, I just bought The Faerie Queen to read for the first time. Is anyone else reading it right now? I'd love to hear your thoughts as you go along.


Good for you! The Exodus, who started this thread in September, may be reading it at present. I don't know anoyone else who is, but as a number of us here have read it, I'd certainly be interested in hearing and engaging with your comments...
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Re: Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queen

Postby Adam Linton » 24 Oct 2009, 18:11

Tuke wrote:I don't think Spenser's language and style present that great of a problem for today's high school students. His colloquialisms and linguistic rhythm are often not dissimilar to, indeed reminiscent of, modern rap, Ebonics and hip hop.


Although I didn't comment on it at the time, I remember thinking that this was a very interesting observation. Care to elaborate?
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Re: Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queen

Postby Tuke » 27 Oct 2009, 01:41

Adam Linton wrote:
Tuke wrote:I don't think Spenser's language and style present that great of a problem for today's high school students. His colloquialisms and linguistic rhythm are often not dissimilar to, indeed reminiscent of, modern rap, Ebonics and hip hop.

Although I didn't comment on it at the time, I remember thinking that this was a very interesting observation. Care to elaborate?

Perhaps I said more than I know. Upon reflection, I now see that I said less than I was thinking.
Hip Hop, Ebonics and Rap were like a foreign language to me. Incomprehensible would be a euphemism. However, after expending some effort to acquaint myself with Spenser's syntax and spelling which were somewhat foreign to me as well, I discovered I had a sympathy and appreciation for "street poetry," or at least its potential. So, by a kind of inductive apriority, I thought maybe today's high schoolers have the same dormant ability to appreciate Spenser. That may be invalid reasoning, but what I had in mind nonetheless. Do you think Professor Lewis might grant it some philological value?
"The 'great golden chain of Concord' has united the whole of Edmund Spenser's world.... Nothing is repressed; nothing is insubordinate. To read him is to grow in mental health." The Allegory Of Love (Faerie Queene)

2 Corinthians IV.17 The Weight of Glory
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Re: Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queen

Postby Adam Linton » 27 Oct 2009, 10:13

Tuke wrote:So, by a kind of inductive apriority, I thought maybe today's high schoolers have the same dormant ability to appreciate Spenser. That may be invalid reasoning, but what I had in mind nonetheless. Do you think Professor Lewis might grant it some philological value?


Thanks for expanding a bit. It's interesting (and rather nice) to think of such dormant ability. In answer to your question, I don't know where Lewis would have come down on it exactly in present context--but I do know that he would have found it worth exploring. It's a very Inklings sort of pondering. When we use words, we carry with us--at very differing levels of awareness and deliberation--their history. We might even say that the words carry us. I don't claim special expertise when it comes to philology; that's for sure. But it's a noble, if now neglected, pursuit

This very issue was one that Tolkien engaged substantially--in academic work and imagination. Much worth taking a look at again. And then there are Owen Barfield's efforts (History in English Words and Poetic Diction, etc.). But I've never really launched into Barfield--and considering all things, I probably won't [only so much time and other higher priorities in my reading].

But I will start checking back into both Lewis' and Tolkien's philology--and won't be able to resist taking Lewis' Studies in Words down off the shelf today for a quick review.
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Re: Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queen

Postby rumzy » 27 Oct 2009, 23:17

Ok, here is my first question: Spenser calls the Redcross Knight an "Elfe," but then identifies him as Saint George in Canto II. Did Elfin mean the same thing in 16th century literature as it did in 20th century literature like Lord of the Rings?

By the way, does anyone know of a good audio recording of The Faerie Queen?
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Re: Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queen

Postby Adam Linton » 28 Oct 2009, 01:22

rumzy wrote:Ok, here is my first question: Spenser calls the Redcross Knight an "Elfe," but then identifies him as Saint George in Canto II. Did Elfin mean the same thing in 16th century literature as it did in 20th century literature like Lord of the Rings?

By the way, does anyone know of a good audio recording of The Faerie Queen?


"Elfe" in Spenser, drawing on Germanic folklore/myth, is much, much closer to Tolkien than to the the diminished, deliberately cute Victorian era versions. England, in The Faerie Queene is a place where different realities intersect; hence the identification of the Knight as Saint George, as well.

I have a CD audio, which I like, Selections from the Faerie Queene, read by John Moffatt (Naxos of America). Three CDs; so while substantial, still a modest selection from the whole. ISBN-10: 962634377X. ISBN-13: 978-9626343777
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Re: Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queen

Postby Acrux » 09 Nov 2009, 03:05

agingjb wrote:A personal note: I find the exchange between "v"s and "u"s in my Penguin Faerie Queene much more obvious, and slightly jarring, than any other variation in spelling.


Yes! That's precisely the problem I had (in addition to the smallish character size), hence the reason for my question -- my eyes are just not what they used to be. However, it seems that finding such a "standardized" spelling edition is simply not very easy.
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Re: Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queen

Postby ladysherlockian » 08 Mar 2010, 11:36

I am writing MA about the fairies in Shakespeare's comedies. Apart from what we include in our bibliographies, we have to read some additional books and articles for the exam. They have to be related to the topic of our thesis. I was wondering about The Faerie Queene, would it be appropriate? It features fairies, but I know that Spenser deliberately made the language more archaic than the one used in his times. I guess it must be difficult to read. Would it be really feasible to read it and understand in detail before my exams in June?
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Re: Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queen

Postby Adam Linton » 08 Mar 2010, 21:22

ladysherlockian wrote:Would it be really feasible to read it and understand in detail before my exams in June?


Not because you couldn't deal with it--but because of its length and complexity, it would likely be difficult to cover adequately before June. But maybe just the first book (Redcrosse Knight) would be worth at least dipping into by then. And on its own merits, given your background and interests, I'd much recommend reading it in full at some time...
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