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Untold FuturesTime and Literary Culture in Renaissance England$
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J. K. Barret

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781501702365

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501702365.001.0001

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The History of the Future

The History of the Future

Spenser’s The Faerie Queene and the Directions of Time

(p.62) Chapter 2 The History of the Future
Untold Futures

J. K. Barret

Cornell University Press

This chapter presents a reading of Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene. It argues that Spenser’s poetry unsettles the credibility of both historical account and consequence, serving as a hinge between an inaccessible past and an unknown future. The poem’s presentation of history and prophecy emphasizes the unstable aspects of both while the present gives shape to gaps and missing links. Through his treatment of time, Spenser foregrounds England’s simultaneous awareness of a lack of access to its own past and its overwhelming desire to aggrandize its origins. The poet manipulates familiar devices like prophecy and providential patterning to emphasize contingency over inevitability, thus illustrating that he does not merely report the past, but also plays a significant role in creating it.

Keywords:   Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, history, prophecy, historical account

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