The Greek anthology in the Renaissance: Epigrammatic scenes of reading in Spenser's Faerie Queene

Camilla I E Temple*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article (Academic Journal)peer-review

Abstract

This article considers the reception of the ancient Greek ecphrastic epigram in the Renaissance, specifically in the work of Andrea Alciato (1492-1550) and Edmund Spenser (1552?-1599). The focus is on a particular kind of epigram, which takes the form of a dialogue wherein the passerby questions an allegorical statue about its significance, and the statue responds with a form of self-commentary. This type of poem was of particular interest to the author of the first emblem book, Alciato, who used the epigrams to inspire a number of his emblem poems. Partly by means of the emblems, the Greek epigrams came to influence various moments in Spenser's epic poem, The Faerie Queene. This article argues that the dialogic form of the epigram suggests to Spenser the importance of the scene of viewing as a sophisticated aesthetic subject. I discuss the role of this kind of epigram in relation to the Occasion figure in The Faerie Queene 2.4, but also in connection to a number of allegorical statues in the poem. Furthermore, this article focuses on the figure of the unknowing passerby who appears in the epigrams and emblems to argue for the importance of a knowing and naïve viewpoint in Spenser's poem.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-72
Number of pages25
JournalStudies in Philology
Volume115
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018

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