Cascading Hazards: Earthquakes, Allegory, and the Steadfast Globe

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Abstract

This essay proposes that Redcrosse’s battles with the multihazard threat of the flesh, the world, and the devil can be read as subject to what twenty-first-century theorists of risk modeling describe as “cascade” effects. It reads the earth-shaking imagery of Spenser’s Legend of Holiness in light of the literature produced in response to the 1580 earthquake, contending that early modern attitudes to an unsettled planet can illuminate in more precise terms both the threat, and the potential recovery, embodied by Spenser’s treatment of the deadly sin of pride. For the 1580 earthquake respondents, natural disasters invited tentative construals concerning the consequences of human behavior, as situated in ethical and eschatological, rather than solely environmental, terms. As a cataclysmic force that vanished, leaving only ruin, the earthquake gave shape to interpretative strategies alert to the difficulties of reading signs, casting aspects of Spenser’s allegorical work into sharp relief.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSpenser Studies
Volume36
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2022

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