Transforming Desire: Erotic Knowledge in Books III and IV of the Faerie Queene.
Just a being that moves In predestinate grooves, Not even a bus, but a tram.
If Britomart is, metaphorically, a bus, then the part of the tram is played by Scudamore, who, Silberman says, misreads situations because he is a prisoner of Petrarchan language. And, if a character can be said to misread situations, then there must be something outside language for him to misread. Silberman is one of the post-post-modernists (as she says, there is, as yet, no name for this new academic tribe) who is consciously moving on from Derrida; while she revels in the free play of words (the book is a close reading of Books III and IV), she recognizes that, for a Christian poet, there is a Transcendental Signifier in the sky.
This is a subtle book, and full of ingenuity. If all in the here and now is provisional, then this goes for any reading of the poem: there can be no insights inscribed in stone. The author fully recognizes that she and her readers are engaged in a sophisticated game, and she is most refreshingly unsolemn about it. It is a relief to find an academic book which, while it is demanding to read, is none the less not written in the usual constipated prose, and shows obvious attention to style, as well as a real belief in the worth of what she is discussing. A writer with cloth ears does not inspire confidence, especially when the subject is a poet who, by definition, must care passionately about language. This book is admirably lucid, and the arguments correspondingly clear - as well as hard-headed. And Silberman, who is nothing if not an enthusiast, certainly convinces her readers that, even if Spenser does not appeal to everybody, he is a source of endless intellectual stimulation.
H. L. SPENCER Exeter College Oxford
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|Publication:||The Review of English Studies|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||May 1, 1997|
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