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‘What-euer life or motion doe retaine’: Moving man as the measure in Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene
This paper seeks to explore the representation of bodies in motion in the work of Edmund Spenser. In The Faerie Queene, for example, Spenser uses the moving body as both an allegorical device and a perspectival instrument, in order to perform acts of measurement and orientation. For example, the prowess of Spenser’s Redcrosse Knight is measured by his ability to preserve forward motion; when this is prevented, the effect on his person is catastrophic. His sinews become brittle, and ‘his flesh shronk vp like withered flowres’ (FQ, I.vii.41), where loss of cognitive function is figured allegorically in terms of muscular waste. Throughout, this paper emphasises the didactic nature of allegory and the way that Spenser’s use of the mode offers the reader a way of producing knowledge. Spenser engages in debates concerning the didactic efficacy of allegory as well as the extent to which man, to borrow the formulation of Protagoras, can truly be considered as the measure of virtue.