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The political allegory of lovesickness and the lovesick womb in early modern studies, with an emphasis on Spenser

Swannack, FI


FI Swannack


S Brewster

P Buse


The Elizabethan poet Edmund Spenser published his sonnet sequence
Visions of the Worlds Vanitie in a collection called Complaints in 1591, and the
Amoretti and Epithalamion in 1595. I am analysing these poems and other
appropriate early modern texts by using the allegorical vehicle of the Renaissance
medical and philosophical notion of lovesickness. However, in the late sixteenth
and early seventeenth centuries, lovesickness is either interchangeable with or
replaced by love-melancholy, which is a more fashionable illness describing the
courtly Lover's suffering for his Lady. I am arguing that lovesickness is a more
extreme illness. In Spenser's sonnet sequences Visions of the Worlds Vanitie and
the Amoretti, I will analyse how the male Lover describes a bestial and grotesque
condition as a destructive force, which invokes the courtly conflict between Lover
and Lady. Spenser will also be compared and contrasted with other early modern
sonnet sequences to identify different evocations of lovesickness, which employ
language that is less hyperbolic than that found in Visions of the Worlds Vanitie
and the Amoretti.
Lovesickness will also be used to analyse the conflict between internal and
external space, with a concept I have termed the lovesick womb. In early modern
England, the womb is a powerful signifier because it is the source of extreme
carnal desires, which are hidden from the patriarchal gaze. However, the lovesick
womb not only conceals itself from patriarchal influence but it can also harm
patriarchal law by intensifying its desire. The lovesick womb's inferred promiscuity
that leads to unplanned pregnancies increases the desire of patriarchal law - to
domineer and control. A political allegory of lovesickness and the lovesick womb
will be used to provide an insightful critique of Queen Elizabeth I and her court. It
also has implications for Spenser's own sense of identity as a representative New
VllEnglish settler living in Ireland from 1580-1598. These implications serve further
as a critique of Elizabethan colonial practice in which the queen's physical
presence in Ireland is advocated as a solution to its problems.


Swannack, F. The political allegory of lovesickness and the lovesick womb in early modern studies, with an emphasis on Spenser. (Thesis). Salford : University of Salford

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Oct 3, 2012
Award Date Jan 1, 2010

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