Revisionary Play: Studies in the Spenserian Dynamics

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9780520056831: Revisionary Play: Studies in the Spenserian Dynamics

With the publication of The Allegorical Temper in 1957, Harry Berger established himself as one of the most eminent and influential postwar critics of Spenser. Since that time, he has published more than a dozen important Spenser essays. Berger's work of the 1960s and early 1970s gave to a generation of students and scholars new conceptual tools for dealing with Renaissance cultural texts and laid the groundwork for current attempts to study imaginative forms as modes of ideological production that not merely reflect but shape social reality.

Berger's criticism embodies the complex interaction of "evolution" and "retrospection" that is central to his reading of Spenser. Essays written over a quarter century cohere in a powerful and ongoing project to develop a model of mind and imagination, and a theory of cultural change. These concerns are at the core of the essays that make up Part I of this collection, essays on Spenser in general and The Faerie Queene in particular. Part II, a study of The Shepheardes Calender, is substantially new for this volume. Composed of essays written or revised during the past decade, it reflects Berger's responses to such current trends in critical practice as the new historicism and the analysis of the discourses of gender and generation. In characteristic fashion, Berger has come to the earlier poem later, in a retrospective encounter with Spenser's beginnings.

In a stimulating Afterword, Berger discusses the changes in his critical thinking and their effects on his current approach to Spenser.

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From the Inside Flap:

"What critic of Spenser's poetry does not know, and acknowledge, a debt to Harry Berger? The collection, at last, of these seminal essays into a single volume is welcome news indeed for the generation of scholars who learned from them and can now more easily send their own students to them. . . . Their importance as documents of the discovery of Spenser, and the Spenserian mode, in the 1960s is given new prominence, moreover, by Berger's recent essays here on the 'metapastoralism' of The Shepheardes Calendar. In them, this New Critic comes home again to Spenser, recognizing the value of recent critical trends but arguing passionately for the centrality of the close reading of text. The result is a powerful case for reconciliation and consolidation of methods that have dominated literary study over the second half of this century."—Donald Cheney, co-editor of The Spenser Encyclopedia

About the Author:

Harry Berger, Jr. is Professor of Literature and Art History at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is the author of The Allegorical Temper and Imaginary Audition.

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Berger, Harry, Jr.
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