'Worme-eaten, and full of canker holes': Materializing memory in the Faerie Queene and Lingua

Alan Stewart, Garrett A. Sullivan

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20 Scopus citations


This essay looks again at a familiar site of memory, Eumnestes's chamber in Book II of The Faerie Queene. We argue that Spenser's mobilization of apparently commonplace metaphors of memory as written text hints at newly perceived stresses bearing on memory in the period. To pursue this, we examine a near-contemporary gloss on the Alma episode in Thomas Tomkis's play Lingua (c. 1604), the indebtedness of which to Spenser was long ago noted by M. P. Tilley. In Lingua the comically dysfunctional relationship of the forgetful old man Memory (Eumnestes) and his discontented page Anamnestes is exploited dramatically to parody common notions of memory retrieval, and to deplore the perceived detrimental effects on memory of the new antiquarian and critical vogues for worm-eaten manuscripts and indiscriminate print chronicles. Prompted by Lingua to reexamine Spenser's engagement with aspects of textual and social history, we provide a reading of Book II, Cantos ix-xii that uncovers some of the latent tensions in the poem's account of relations among memory, history, discipline, and heroic action.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)215-238
Number of pages24
JournalSpenser Studies
StatePublished - 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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