Allegory and Intimacy in The Faerie Queene
This chapter explores the role of touch in The Faerie Queene. Spenser seemingly warns against the dangerous ‘feeling pleasures’ of touch in his allegory of the human body in the Book of Temperance, but the treatment of moments of contact elsewhere in the poem suggests something more complex than a simple repudiation of touch on Aristotelian or Neoplatonic terms. It is suggested that Spenser drew upon the unstable and crucial role of touch in his cultural and political milieu, as well as longstanding debates surrounding the allegorical reading of the scriptures, in order to make moments of intimacy in his poem inescapably open to interpretation, including slanderous misconstrual. His allegory also includes moments of fleeting and intimate contact, which escape strictures against improper touch, and perhaps escape the requirement to mean something altogether.
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