Date of Award

Spring 6-13-2021

Department or Program

Comparative Literature Program

First Advisor

Alexandra Halasz

Second Advisor

David LaGuardia


In this paper, I propose that sixteenth-century humanist descriptions of Rome’s decay, together with paradigms of translatio imperii and studii, shaped Edmund Spenser’s poetic conceptualization of matter. I identify a new translatio in Spenser’s corpus, translatio materiae—matter’s movement or change—born from Spenser’s contact with Joachim du Bellay’s sonnet sequence, Les Antiquitez de Rome (1553). Translatio materiae runs through Spenser’s corpus as depicted matter’s resurrection from states of decay into material afterlives as narrative object or poetic device. Where early humanists, with recourse to the division between earthly mutability and heavenly permanence, lament Rome, Spenser favors matter’s potential for translatio into new forms. I examine this phenomenon in two key heroic episodes of Faerie Queene Book One (1590/96), episodes which I treat as exemplary of matter’s proliferation, propagation, and translatio in the poem’s narrative and structure.