Writing and weaving:The textual and the textile in Spenser’s 1590 Faerie Queene, III.i


  • Joan Curbet Soler Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona


Spenser, ekphrasis, Arras tapestries, textuality, Britomart


Most often, Ovidian allusions are woven into Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (Books I–III, 1590) without developing into an open re-telling of myths. One significant exception occurs in Book III, Canto 1: there the action comes to a temporary stop in order to make space for a detailed description of the tapestry in the hall of Castle Joyous, which depicts the story of Venus and Adonis. This article intends to offer a reading of that episode that focuses on the importance of materiality and self-reflexivity as keys to its significance at the opening of Book III, and in the larger structure of The Faerie Queene.Here, the descriptive powers of the poet are both foregrounded and questioned, in a double movement of ekphrasiswhich gestures towards a serious interrogation of the value of representation, both in poetry and the visual arts. Implicitly, it is the poet (and through him, the reader him/herself) that must question his/her role and participation in the gradual and often painful awareness of the body that is foregrounded throughout Book III.


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