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Thesis title: Edmund Spenser and the Elizabethan religious controversies
Start year: 2012
My research topic is to consider how the Elizabethan religious controversies impacted on and affected the tensions between Catholics and Protestants, and how the tensions developed between the moderate Protestants and those that desired further reform. For some radicals, the Reformation of the English Church never achieved its full potential and matched the reformed churches of mainland Europe. What impact did the religious controversies have on the poet, Edmund Spenser and his work; what similarities and intertextual connections are evident in his work and the writings of the reformers?
The main questions I aim to consider are what were the main issues for the Reformers? What were the main differences between the conservative and radical reformers? How were these issues expressed, specifically the form and style utilised in their writing. Sixteenth-century humanist education included the revival of the classics, reflected in many writers’ work. However, classical references are minimal or absent from the anti-papal polemic tracts. Was this an effort to remove themselves from any of the past beliefs and tradition, how did they fare against the Catholic question of the age of the church? Spenser fashioned himself on the classical poets, such as Virgil and Homer and follows the Virgilian tradition that poets start their careers with pastoral poetry using it as a training ground before moving through the genres developing style and experience. Spenser may position himself in line with the past classical poets and thereby authorises his poetry through this connection to his predecessors but how does this correlate with his religious status?
My proposed hypothesis – Spenser’s anti-Catholic stance was informed not only by theological doctrine but also by anti-papal pamphleture and the evidence is provided by a textual analysis to show the intertextual connections.
Edmund Spenser, sixteenth-century poetry, anti-Catholic polemic, Protestant poetics, Historicism
Elizabethan religious controversies, Tudor religious history, Elizabethan propaganda programmes, the didactic use of the ‘word’ and printed texts to disseminate reform
On the steering group planning the 2013 research student conference.