This site is a repository of original research on Spenser's Faerie Queene (1590, 1596); the essays presented here have been written by members of ENG304: "Spenser's Faerie Queene in the Archives," a course taught during the spring semester of 2012, at Stonehill College, in Easton, Massachusetts, by Professor Helga Duncan. The essays included are intended as a scholarly resource for readers and students of Spenser's poem, and offer reflections on the cultural contexts in which Spenser lived and worked. The writers eagerly invite comments from readers of this site.

What will you find here?

Edmund Spenser wrote his great English epic The Faerie Queene while working as a minor colonial official in Ireland, far away from the glittering court of Queen Elizabeth I. The members of this course wrote on the epic imagination of one of England’s most important poets, asking why his work, so clearly written from the margins (in geographical as well as political terms), would eventually come to define England’s sense of national identity. The writers of the essays collected here hope to provide a better understanding of Spenser’s achievement and the far-reaching influence of his epic poem. Each writer engaged in archival and bibliographic studies, and asked questions about the political, social, religious, and cultural contexts of Spenser's work. The writers of these essays researched not only the conditions in Elizabethan Ireland where Spenser wrote most The Fairie Queene, but they also examined Spenser's poetic models; engaged with Spenser's royal patron, Elizabeth I; and even investigated the relationship between Spenser's allegory of colonization in The Fairie Queene's Book 2 and the Spanish empire in Alta California. These essays emerged from months of extensive and intensive work in history and theory, and they seek to contextualize Spenser's poem within some of the dramatic political and social changes of early modern Europe, while drawing on contemporary models of nation formation to understand the vital role poetry played in the fashioning of a recognizably modern concept of nationhood.