Resisting Allegory

Interpretive Delirium in Spenser's Faerie Queene

by Harry Berger, David Lee Miller

Subject categories
ISBNs
  • 9780823285631
  • 9780823285655
  • 9780823285648

Spenser is a delirious poet. He can’t plough straight. What he builds is shiftier, twistier, than anything dreamed up or put down by M. C. Escher.

So begins Resisting Allegory, in which the leading Spenser critic of our time sums up a lifelong commitment to the theory and practice of textual interpretation. Spenser’s great poem provides the occasion for a searching and comprehensive interdisciplinary exploration of reading practices¾those the author advocates as well as those he adapts or criticizes in entertaining a wide range of critical arguments with his celebrated combination of intellectual generosity and rigorous questioning.

Berger is interested in how details of the poem's language—phrases, images, figures on which we haven’t put enough interpretive pressure—disconcert traditional interpretations and big discourses that the poem has often been thought to serve. Central to this volume is an attention to the deployment of gender in conjunction with the Berger’s notion of narrative complicity.

Resisting Allegory offers a model of theoretically sophisticated criticism that never wavers in its close attention to the text. Berger offers a sustained and brilliantly articulated resistance not only to allegory, as the title indicates, but also to prevalent modes of cultural and historical criticism. As in all of Berger’s books, a lucid reflection on questions of method—based on a profound and richly theoretically informed understanding of the workings of language and of the historical situations of the people involved in it—are interwoven with an interpretive practice that serves as an exemplary pedagogical model. Berger attends to historical and political context while deeply respecting the ways in which text can never be reduced to context.

This distinctive and original book makes clear the scope and coherence of the critical vision elaborated Berger has elaborated in a lifetime of seminal and still-challenging critical arguments.


  • Fordham University Press; January 2020
  • ISBN: 9780823285655
  • Edition: 1
  • Title: Resisting Allegory
  • Author: Harry Berger; David Lee Miller (ed.)
  • Imprint: Fordham University Press
Subject categories
ISBNs
  • 9780823285631
  • 9780823285655
  • 9780823285648

In The Press

“Berger’s new volume on Spenser’s narrative poem will be essential to all Renaissance scholars. Like Berger’s earlier books, Resisting Allegory develops and complicates our thinking on The Faerie Queene along a number of fronts. Berger’s notion of narrative complicity, familiar now through his famous readings of Shakespeare, is richer and more complex for its encounter with Spenser and with gender analysis.”


About The Author

Harry Berger, Jr. (Author)
Harry Berger, Jr., is Professor Emeritus of Literature and Art History and a Fellow of Cowell College at the University of California, Santa Barbara. A Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he is the author of fourteen books, most recently Harrying: Skills of Offense in Shakespeare's Henriad (Fordham, 2016).

David Lee Miller (Edited By)
David Lee Miller is Carolina Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English and Comparative Literature at the University of South Carolina. He is the author of Dreams of the Burning Child: Sacrifiial Sons and the Father’s Witness (Cornell, 2003) and The Poem’s Two Bodies: The Poetics of the 1590 Faerie Queene (Princeton, 1988).