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Virginity and the patristic tradition; Spenser’s Faerie Queene and the Reformation

Fannon, Beatrice Elizabeth 2012. Virginity and the patristic tradition; Spenser’s Faerie Queene and the Reformation. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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It has long been recognised that chastity is a problem in Book III of The Faerie Queene. The problem arises in part because the poem does not clearly define chastity but instead ambiguously praises it both as virginity and marital love. Behind the poem, too, lies the problem of Elizabeth with her Protestant virginity sometimes represented in Britomart,sometimes in Belphoebe, but also dangerously Catholic in its iconography. Indeed, wherever we turn in The Faerie Queene there are tangles of meaning. The contention of this thesis is that these problems are not merely surface writings, but stem from the Protestant breach with the Church Fathers and the long history of virginity. That history, I suggest in the main body of the thesis, has been broadly ignored by the critics who, by failing to grasp its theological complexity and development, have failed to produce an adequate platform from which to read the Protestant reformers and The Faerie Queene. The thesis is divided into two main parts. The Introduction examines recent critical discussions of virginity in Spenser, the Middle Ages and patristics, thus working backwards historically to the patristic writings themselves where I offer, in Part I, a detailed examination of the growth of the theological significance of virginity. Part II then looks at the reformers’ attacks on virginity, Luther and Erasmus especially, before turning to a discussion of the troubled meanings of virginity and chastity in Spenser’s epic poem.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 01 Feb 2017 04:02

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