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Pocket Maps and Public Poetry in the English Renaissance$
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Katarzyna Lecky

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198834694

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198834694.001.0001

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Spenser’s Miniature Map of Faerie

Spenser’s Miniature Map of Faerie

(p.37) 1 Spenser’s Miniature Map of Faerie
Pocket Maps and Public Poetry in the English Renaissance

Katarzyna Lecky

Oxford University Press

Chapter 1 reads Spenser’s 1590 Faerie Queene in light of the miniature cartographic aesthetic exemplified by William Bowes’s 1590 county playing cards. I show that in the poem, which earned Spenser a pension from Elizabeth I, Amoret’s cut-up body represents in microcosm the imperial dissection of England and Wales by Christopher Saxton’s 1579 royally-funded county atlas. The romance heroine’s small size and unadorned beauty, which closely parallel the raw aesthetic of cheap maps, reveal the miniature’s potential to resist monarchical illusions of grandeur. This aesthetic reappears in Spenser’s descriptions of the Thames in Prothalamion (1596), as well as of Irish rebels resisting English colonization in the 1596 Vewe of the Present State of Irelande. In both, Spenser’s engagement with the geographic imaginary of small-format cartography complicates scholarly assumptions about the poet’s nationalism.

Keywords:   county atlas, The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spenser, miniature, William Bowes, cartographic playing cards, empire, romance, A Vewe of the Present State of Irelande, Prothalamion

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