The Shepherd and the Familiar Stranger: Surveying Grammar in The Shepheardes Calender

Tate, Robert, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Jost, Walter, English, University of Virginia

This paper places the poetry of Edmund Spenser in conversation with the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein. The basic contention is that Spenser's vision of language engages in modes that are akin to what Wittgenstein describes in his later work as "grammatical inquiry." In _The Shepheardes Calender_, Spenser explores (and rethinks) the substructural conditions that support linguistic and literary development. Amid the epistemic and communicative struggles of the multiple speakers, the space of the pastoral embodies a sort of ground zero or excavation site where Spenser reaches toward the bedrock of poetic diction. In stressing conditions, I allude more to prior states of affairs and underlying patterns of agreement in the uses of early modern language and art. Hence, I am interested in specific senses of rules and how these rules coordinate games of writing (teaching) and reading (learning) in early modern poetics and hermeneutics. I see Spenser as striving for balance and traction on the locutionary terra firma that moored the literary practices of his historical moment. In this light, Spenser’s pastoral debut works to show the ground rules of poetic diction, to show what makes lexical analysis possible at all, and to show what makes verbal performance graceful or labored, skillful or learned.

MA (Master of Arts)
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