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Our New Poet: Archetypal Criticism and "The Faerie Queene"

Rudolf B. Gottfried
PMLA
Vol. 83, No. 5 (Oct., 1968), pp. 1362-1377
DOI: 10.2307/1261309
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1261309
Page Count: 16
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Our New Poet: Archetypal Criticism and "The Faerie Queene"
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Abstract

When the archetypal principles outlined by Northrop Frye in his Anatomy of Criticism have been applied to "The Faerie Queene," they have dangerously misrepresented its structure and meaning. The Anatomy subordinates a poet's intention in any given text to the symbolic patterns a critic can discover there; and so it arbitrarily describes Spenser's poem as a romance in six books, covering many of the six phases which make up the archetypal plot of that genre. In a later essay Frye amends his scheme to include the Mutabilitie Cantos as a completed seventh part in the unified imagery of the whole. But the reductive possibilities of his approach are far more fully realized in A. C. Hamilton's Structure of Allegory in The Faerie Queene. Around the poem Hamilton weaves a network of recurring "images": puns, sexual allusions, and mythological equivalents. He also forces it into various larger molds, asserting that Book One consists of two five-act plays, a tragedy followed by a comedy; that Book One falls into four parts which outline the remaining books; and that the seven books which survive are patterned on the chronological development of human life. Thus, archetypal criticism has made Spenser over into another poet.

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