Representations of Queen Elizabeth I in Edmund Spenser's Pastoral Poetry
Swannack, Frank Ian
This thesis will analyse Edmund Spenser's pastoral poems, The Shepherd's Calendar (1579) and Co/in Clout's Come Home Againe (1595) to uncover allegorical representations of Queen Elizabeth I. The psychoanalytical theories of Jacques Lacan and Julia Kristeva will be appropriated to construct a methodological model termed the 'Lacanian Pastoral'. This model will be used to examine Spenser's poetic unconscious that maps identity, represented by Spenser's poetic persona of Cohn Clout, on to a political landscape. Clout is constructed from Spenser's marginalised position outside the Elizabethan court, as a young poet in The Shepherd's Calendar and literary exile in Ireland in Co/in Clout's Come Home Againe. This creates a dichotomy between Spenser and Elizabeth, which is caused by Spenser's twin anxieties over Elizabeth's unmarried and childless state. These anxieties reflect Spenser's desire for patronage, and his fear of a counter-reformation threat posed by Catholicism. They create a poetic identity in which Elizabeth is unconsciously desired as the exotic Other, through a pastoral that maps the Elizabethan court. Spenser constructs this political landscape from a reinterpretation of his Virgihian and Petrarchan pastoral influences. Both these classical poets use allegory to create political tension in their pastorals that, as this thesis will argue, Spenser exacerbates to construct a dystopic pastoral. The dystopic pastoral reflects Spenser's inner turmoil surrounding his own future, and that of Protestantism in England. This thesis will examine the implications of Spenser's destructive outlook on his pastoral, which is reflected on his allegorical representations of the Queen. I believe this argument has failed to receive an in-depth analysis from previous Spenserian critics.