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Spenser Studies: A Renaissance Poetry Annual


Placing Sansfoy’s death and the disappearance of his body alongside The Faerie Queene’s other defeated paynims—the Souldan and Pollente, Pyrochles and Cymochles—reveals that Spenser’s poem breaks from epic tradition in its treatment of the enemy dead. The corpse desecration and immoderate mourning habitually practiced by Spenser’s foreign characters makes visible early modern English anxieties about the limits placed on grief and the rites owed to the departed. In Book II, classical ideals of universal burial are gradually supplanted by treatment determined by racial and religious difference. Guyon’s evolving response to the question of burial discloses the racial stakes of paynim death in Books I and V. In its ambivalent handling of foreign mourners, however, the poem remains suspended between an emerging racialized logic of death and a human right to decent burial held in common.






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