Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Spenser, in his Shepheardes Calender, created "a Calender for euery yeare," but the calendar of each speaker, and possibly of every reader, varies based on a person's attitude towards his or her place in the natural and cosmic cycles. Although many critics have tried to impose regularity of structure and content on Spenser's poem, and have attempted to define Spenser's viewpoint, it seems likely that Spenser was not attempting to present one consistent, inflexible viewpoint.;I propose that The Shepheardes Calender is a work consisting of many voices, not only the voices of the fictional characters within the work, but also the voices of Spenser the author, his persona Immerito, an unnamed narrator, and E.K., the critical commentator. The reader participates in the work as well, moving back and forth among levels of fiction and interpretation. Spenser invisibly manipulates the reader's responses by his use of paradox and irony, his inclusion of voices which contradict each other and often themselves, and his indication by various means, such as frames, that this work is fictional. Thus Spenser subverts the possibility that any one viewpoint be taken as that of the poem or poet. The analogy between human beings and nature, which is the thematic and structural foundation of the poem, is questioned by the use of these various techniques.;This dissertation is structured according to the calender format and that very analogy that is being questioned. Themes relating to fiction-making in spring, choosing landscapes in summer, escaping nature in the fall, and contradicting oneself and others in winter are explored in the various chapters.;In all sets of eclogues the analogy between human beings and nature is paradoxical. The identities of the speakers are inconsistent, the frames within frames subvert any clear boundaries between fictional and real worlds, and readers are unable to maintain secure positions for themselves in the text. Spenser is questioning the nature of poetry itself and its relationship to the paradoxes of fiction and reality, order and disorder, time and eternity--a subject he continued to explore in his later work.



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