Scorned little creatures?: insects and genre in Complaints (1591)

Brown, Richard Danson (2024). Scorned little creatures?: insects and genre in Complaints (1591). In: Stenner, Rachel and Shinn, Abigail eds. Edmund Spenser and Animal Life. Palgrave Studies in Animals and Literature. London: Palgrave, pp. 139–158.



This essay looks at Spenser’s animal writing through two related lenses. In the first place, it considers animal hermeneutics, using the influential work of Jill Mann to suggest the continuing of vitality of medieval models of signification in the foxes and badgers of The Ruines of Time. Secondly, it looks in detail at the neglected Visions of the Worlds Vanitie sequence (also from Complaints) to suggest further connections with medieval genres in the shape of the bestiary. However, as the essay suggests, the detail of these poems works against the simplifyied moralizing they seem to evoke in favour of the destabilization of conventional hierarchies in ways which remain surprisingly unpredictable.

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