"'[W]ritten with teares in harts close bleeding booke': wounds, skepticism, and the interior of the body in Early Modern romance

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University of Alabama Libraries

"Written with Teares" studies two romances--Edmund Spenser's "The Faerie Queene" and Sir Philip Sidney's "The New Arcadia"--and begins with a simple hypothesis: that Spenser's and Sidney's elaboration on wounds demonstrate a deep skepticism about the status of the Early Modern body and its relationship to an individual's interiority (as subjectivity). The first chapter treats Book Three of Spenser's "The Faerie Queene," and considers the confusion that surrounds Spenser's representation of physical and metaphorical wounds. This confusion often accompanies a crossing of erotic love with physical violence, and Spenser's characters struggle to differentiate between physical and metaphorical wounds. This exercise in reading wounds, I argue, is necessarily an exercise in demonstrating the problems of interpreting the body as a marker of the self. As such, Spenser's characters, in Book Three, learn to see wounds not necessarily as a marker of the soul, but as the physical space where the body's inside and outside mix and become adulterated, rendering each as indistinguishable from the other. The first chapter argues that this combination of insides and outsides suggests Spenser's uncertainty about the nature and value of inwardness, an uncertainty that translates, with Sidney, over to the Renaissance battlefield, to the aesthetic representation of aristocratic bodies and aristocratic virtues. The second chapter--the key synecdoche of the project--studies Sir Philip Sidney's "The New Arcadia" and contends that Sidney's anxieties about the body manifest when his heroes sustain wounds. Sidney, however, is more sensitive to the political and social implications of wounds than Spenser, and, thus, his treatment of them in "The New Arcadia" links with his testing and transformation of Tudor Humanist assumptions about the heroic body and its aesthetic, moral, and erotic functions. Ultimately, I suggest that "The New Arcadia" sublimates heroic action to heroic suffering, expressed through emotional and physical wounds on and in the body. Sidney's heroes and heroines do not succeed; rather, they languish under the weight of emotional torment and physical pain, learning to appreciate the figurative, spiritual values of pain rather than the practical rewards of martial victory.

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Romance literature, European history