ENG630 201903 Graduate

Spring 2020
ENG 630
Applies To: 
Renaissance Literature: Spencer + Embodiment

Brent Dawson

Brent Dawson profile picture
  • Title: Assistant Professor
  • Phone: 541-346-3962
  • Office: 473 PLC
  • Office Hours: S20 W 1-4 remote
Department Section Description: 

This course reads Spenser as a theorist of embodiment. The Faerie Queene is a text that shapes bodies, training the reader in corporeal discipline through the allegorical adventures of its heroes. In doing so, it can be (and has been) seen as indicative of a modernity in which the subject is increasingly distant from the body. However, Spenser’s poem is also one in which the lines between bodies and selves are confounded: people transform into speaking trees, flesh withers until it is an allegorical sign, and symbols are conjured out of still-animate blood. The Faerie Queene, then, offers an opportunity to think through the question of embodiment crucial to many forms of literary and cultural theory of the last generation or two. We will interrogate particular categories of embodiment important to the poem—including sexuality, race, and species—but we will also ask questions of a preliminary order: e.g., what is a body? what does it mean to say one “has” one or is “in” one? To that end, we will read some ancient texts on embodiment influential to Spenser (St. Paul, Aristotle, and Lucretius), and recent theoretical work taking up some of those texts. At the end of the term, we will look at some later texts that draw on Spenser to formulate their own sense of embodiment, including Victorian Arts and Crafts books and contemporary fantasy.