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Early Modern English Literature and the Poetics of Cartographic Anxiety$
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Chris Barrett

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198816874

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198816874.001.0001

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The Dream of an Unmappable Nation

The Dream of an Unmappable Nation

Allegory, Cartography, and Spenser’s Faerie Queene

(p.47) 1 The Dream of an Unmappable Nation
Early Modern English Literature and the Poetics of Cartographic Anxiety

Chris Barrett

Oxford University Press

The Faerie Queene frequently meditates on how representing space—imagistically or narratively—involves distortion. This chapter proposes that allegory as an expressive mode allows the poem to interrogate the workings of mapping and poetry in particular, and of representation more broadly. Noting that some of the poem’s most vexing encounters with allegory’s limits come at moments in which the representation of space is at stake, the chapter considers several moments in the poem (e.g. Book V’s Giant with the Scales) when cartographic anxiety reveals a tension between the map’s and poem’s literary and literal ambitions. If mapping depends on an enabling metaphoricity that conceals its artifice, then allegory, which trumpets its metaphoricity to problematize its artifice, emerges as the poetic mode best able to supply an alternative model for how the literal and the literary interact in the making of poetry.

Keywords:   Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, allegory, surveying, surveyors’ manuals, metaphor, literal, figuration, cartography, representation

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