Literature Review

Quite recently I have done a number of presentations, essays and blog posts as preparation for my thesis proposal. The concluding result is that I will attempt to write my thesis on past theories of philosophy which Spenser displays through allegory and how these can be related to modern day psychological concepts.

My primary text will be Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene. As my research is in its early days the decision has not yet been finalised as to exactly what section will be the main point of focus but based on research I have already carried out, Book II – The Book of Temperance will be of upmost importance.

In light of the above I have read a large quantity of material which will continue to support and advise my thesis argument. One of the first and most valuable sources I investigated was A.C. Hamilton’s The Spenser Encyclopedia. Its articles on Allegory and Psychology are crucial to my exploration and it was the article on Medicine by F. David Hoeniger that sparked the original idea for my thesis. Hoeniger discusses how Spenser’s descriptions of the body are not anatomically correct, Spenser instead concerns himself with the idea of the tripartite soul, a theory that began with the philosophers Aristotle and Plato (461). I hope to tie this into Freud’s theory of personality and the idea of the Id, the Ego and the Superego as discussed in Vilen Vardanyan’s book Panorama of Psychology. The Spenser Encyclopedia also contains articles such as Aristotle and his Commentators by Ronald A. Horton and Boethius by Deborah MacInnes, both are essays on the philosophers beliefs, how they in turn influenced Spenser’s beliefs and how that undoubtedly impacted his writing. These articles and unquestionably many more will provide a large quantity of material that I have and will continue to find crucial to my research.

Another book which has proved invaluable was Spenser’s Allegory – The Anatomy of Imagination. I could see links here between Spenser’s use of allegory and when paired with the Spenser Encyclopedia connections and formations begin to come to the fore regarding the philosophical impact on his use of allegory.  I reread the essay on Art and Love and found that its theories spanned the entirety of The Faerie Queene and this will be exceptionally appropriate when attempting to pinpoint which areas of my primary text will be of most use. The essay entitled Finding What Will Suffice in this book also showed some parallels with my research project.

Spenser’s Allegory – The Anatomy of Imagination led me to discover more works on allegory, one such work was Source and Meaning in Spenser’s Allegory. This book discusses allegory in great detail and its articles on The Allegorical Landscape tie directly into The Republic of Plato translated with notes and an interpretive essay by Allan Bloom. The Republic of Plato provided great insight into philosophical traditions of the time and I could see significant correlations between this and The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius. Both men were exceptionally influential on many writers and in my study I found Boethius to be particularly relevant to Chaucer, this led me to look at Chaucer’s influence on Spenser and the book Chaucer to Spenser: A Critical Reader by Derek Pearsall and investigate how Chaucer’s philosophical beliefs and use of allegory may have had an impact on Spenser.

I familiarized myself with Richard A. McCabe’s The Oxford Handbook of Edmund Spenser as a general overview on all things Spenser. While not as useful or as well categorized as The Spenser Encyclopedia it still proved very useful. The essay Spenser and Religion by Claire McEachern and Spenser and Politics by David J. Baker gave me a great insight into Spenser’s beliefs outside of his philosophical influences and allowed me to form a well-rounded image of him. The essay entitled Allegory, Emblem and Symbol by Kenneth Borris lent support to my knowledge of allegory and the essay Spenser and Classical Philosophy by Andrew Escobedo has proved invaluable in furthering my awareness of Spenser’s philosophical influences.

According to the Spenser Encyclopaedia, for Spenser, the physiological state or humorous condition denotes a psychological or passionate state, and is usually its consequence rather than its cause. This is now considered a modern day psychological concept called Psychosomatics. On learning this I read Foundations in Psychosomatics by Professor Margaret J Christie and Dr. Peter G. Mellet. While this book was more focused on the medical aspect of Psychosomatics it still proved useful for gaining an insight into the original beliefs and foundations of this area of psychology and I found the essays Foundations of Psychosomatics by Margaret J Christie, Psychosomatic Disorder:  A Special Case of Subliminal Perception by Norman F. Dixon and Culture and Illness: Epidemiological Evidence by Michael Marmot to be particularly advantageous.

While it is evident from the above that I have interacted with a wide range and variety of texts I have noticed a gap in the research that I am hoping my topic may fill. Justifiably I have not read all the literature on the topic and hopefully will become better informed as my research progresses. Having said that my research is still in its very early stages and there is room for much more investigation especially in relation to the area of psychology, as undoubtedly there will be much more than just the area of psychosomatics that is relevant to Spenser’s The Faerie Queene.


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