Reviewers hail Sussex professor’s “monumental” bio of poet Spenser
A University of Sussex professor’s book, published today (Thursday 28 June), about the life of poet Edmund Spenser has been hailed by reviewers as “monumental” and “a massive achievement”.
Edmund Spenser: A Life, by Professor of English Andrew Hadfield, “sets new standards” and “changes the way we think about Renaissance literature” according to Willy Maley, whose review of the biography is published today in the Times Higher Education magazine.
Describing the author as one of “the leading specialists in the field”, Professor Maley says: “Hadfield takes the literature as evidence and between Spenser's writings - poetry, letters, documents detailing marriages, children, land acquisitions and legal wrangles - and a painstakingly drawn historical milieu, we get a sense of the texture, the stuff of the life.
“His biography makes it hard to imagine another.”
In Literature Review, Dr Colin Burrow calls the first new biography of Spenser in 60 years a “massive achievement”. He says: “[The book] adeptly untangles the legal procedures in which Spenser was repeatedly embroiled, and explains the geography and society of early modern England and Ireland with great skill.”
Professor Hadfield, writing yesterday (Wednesday 27 June) in the Huffington Post, acknowledges that Spenser is seen as a “shadowy, obscure and dull figure” but explains why he thinks the poet deserves to be thought of among the likes of Shakespeare, Marlowe and Sidney. He said: “Many people visit Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey, however they probably miss the monument to Spenser, tucked away in a corner. But it was his tomb that established the tradition of burying the nation's poets as a cluster.
“We would do well to remember his importance as a writer and a poetic thinker who did so much to make English literature what it is.”
The book’s publisher, Oxford University Press (OUP), says: “[Spenser] is remembered as a morally flawed, self-interested sycophant; complicit in England’s ruthless colonization of Ireland; in Karl Marx’s words, ‘Elizabeth’s arse-kissing poet’ – a man on the make who aspired to be at court.
“Hadfield, however, finds a more complex and subtle Spenser in his biography.”
To read Professor Hadfield’s 10 favourite Spenser facts and conjectures, visit the OUP website.