Contents | Introduction | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Conclusion | References


Chapter Three
Renaissance Mnemonics, Poststructuralism, and the Rhetoric of Hypertext Composition

by Richard Smyth, Ph.D.

Spenser, with his use of the memory palace tradition in his writing, comes at the end of a long tradition of rhetorical pedagogy. The memory palace was effective for centuries as a method of organizing information that one wished to access in one's mind. During the Middle Ages, however, this process began to be externalized somewhat upon the page, so that the grotesque images that one once generated as a means of recalling information come to be placed in the margins of medieval manuscripts to facilitate memorization of entire pages for the purpose of remembering entire books. The book becomes a mnemonic prosthesis at this point, a "technology of the word" as Ong might call it, a tool of information storage and retrieval. After the advent of the new technology of the printing press, further development of mnemotechniques occurred, when Ramus developed his mnemonic system based on outlining dichotomies, spatially arranging words only on the page. This resulted in a transformation of mnemonic practices which dropped the pre-print strategies of the memory palace for the new Ramist methods such that for centuries the memory palace tradition has been ignored as a viable means of information storage and retrieval.

With the advent of electronic technologies at the end of the twentieth century, however, a new technology of information storage and retrieval has come upon the scene of rhetorical pedagogy, one demanding a reconsideration of information storage strategies as they have been practiced with past "technologies of the word" and how they might be practiced with new technologies such as hypertext, video, and virtual reality. Acknowledging this current state of transition, this dissertation addresses the problem of storing and retrieving information in the electronic medium of hypertext. Strategies for storing information within this medium will involve practices that will differ somewhat from storing information in print form. For this reason, alternative strategies must be sought to employ the maximum potential of the medium. One realm for such researching, I am suggesting, is the Early Modern period, a time similar to our own in that a new mnemonic system was coming into being--the print-driven Ramist system of outlining--which displaced the classical tradition of the memory palace. The sixteenth century saw the culmination of mnemonic practices that began with the Greeks and truly flourished in the centuries preceding it, during the Middle Ages, when the emphasis on visual stimuli for mnemonic recall found its expression in the monastic artistry of marginalia.1 While the ancient mnemotechnique of establishing a fixed set of places in which one stored esoteric, often grotesque images meant to trigger the memory took the backseat to the Ramist method, the current technologies are such that these practices, abandoned as they were by the educational institution during the sixteenth century, may have something to offer in solving this current problem.

The difficulty of discussing these practices in terms of orality, literacy, and computeracy, especially when focusing on transitional periods like the sixteenth and twentieth centuries, is that the boundaries between these terms blur, making the process of labeling the practices difficult. Ong identifies this problem when discussing rhetoric in Orality and Literacy: "The 'art' of rhetoric, though concerned with oral speech, was, like the other 'arts,' the product of writing" (109). Such is the problem with the memory palace: while primarily a storage strategy for those without the benefit of writing, it employs the techniques of allegory (in its use of images to represent other words or concepts), techniques that only become possible with the advent of writing. One might identify this phenomenon as "residual orality" in reverse in that, rather than orality encroaching on literate practices as a residue, literacy falls back into oral practice. What one can be sure of is that the actual practices that emerge are hybrids of the general categories "orality" and "literacy."

A close study of Spenser's mnemonics will reveal the same hybrid effect. While he engages the tradition of the memory palace in various ways, as the previous chapter delineates, he also fully embraces the ultimate trope of print literacy--prosopopoeia. A reading of Spenser's poetry will reveal the ambivalent nature of his mnemonics, especially in his use of prosopopoeia. Though committed to prosopopoeia as that trope which will give voice to the dead in print, thereby winning the monumental status that both he and his patrons desired, Spenser also recognizes in Prosopopoia, or Mother Hubberds Tale the uncontrollable quality of words, offering a vision of the duplicity of language in his personifications of prosopopoeia in the Fox and the Ape. This ambivalence can also be seen in Spenser's figuration of depth as the place of evil and mystery. As a writer in the midst of many volatile transitions--including, among the religious and political upheavals of the time, the shift in mnemonics that I have worked to delineate--we can recognize in Spenser an anxiety parallel to our own concerning the embrace of new technologies of communication.

This chapter explores Spenser's relationship to print literacy as a new information storage technology that fosters an ideology of depth. Such an exploration will help us better understand our own relationship to print literacy and our reluctant embrace of computeracy. The era of the printed book, which begins in Spenser's century and ends in our own, is characterized by the trope of prosopopoeia, which allows for a writer to achieve the illusion of control over language in the drive both to deny the duplicitous quality of language and to assert the "natural" unity of signifier and signified, symbol and thing symbolized. Depth comes to be associated with the unifying drive of the symbol, whereas allegory comes to be viewed as superficial, an artificial form of symbolism that is too simplistic to communicate effectively. But with the advent of poststructural philosophy, theorists recognize the will to power over language as an effect of the ideology of depth, and the remainder of the dissertation will in part identify computeracy as manifesting the post-structural ideology of the surface, offering a theory of hypertext composition based on the surface-oriented concept of the rhizome and the new organizing trope of metalepsis.

Prosopopoeia and the Mnemonics of Literacy

We must return to the proem of Book Two to find the ultimate moment of prosopopoeia in the poem. Recall that in stanza four we encountered the presence of the memory palace in talk of "signes" set in "sundry places." The narrator faces Elizabeth in order to face her, to make her face: "And thou, O fairest Princesse vnder sky,/In this faire mirrhour maist behold thy face" (ll. 6-7). "This mirrhour" is the poem, The Faerie Queene, in which Elizabeth will be able to see her self, her "face," "true vertues face," according to Ralegh. The entire poem, then, becomes Spenser's creative act of prosopopoeia, of making the face of the Queen so that she can see herself within the poem figured as a mirror. The implications of this become quite interesting when we consider what is involved in the trope of prosopopoeia.

One sees what is at stake in the act of prosopopoeia in the various ploys for patronage made in many of Spenser's minor poems. In these instances, Spenser uses the fear of being forgotten as a way of pressuring the aristocracy, including the Queen herself, to patronize his work. He positions himself as a maker of (literary) monuments which will commemorate them as well as him. In so doing, he presents himself as indispensable to their posterity. The nature of prosopopoeia as a figure of speech, recent literary theory tells us, bears this commemorative function, a function that can be effectively fulfilled only in printed texts.

One might expect a plea for patronage in dedicatory sonnets, but the intimidating tone of Spenser's Dedicatory Sonnets to The Faerie Queene threatens oblivion if the patrons do not comply. In the one written for the Earle of Oxenford, Spenser reminds the Earl that, because his ancestry is allegorized within the poem, he needs to defend the poem for the sake of his own memory: the "vnripe fruit" of the poem "by thy countenaunce doth craue to bee/Defended from foule Enuies poisnous bit . . . Sith th'antique glory of thine auncestry/Vnder a shady vele is therein writ,/And eke thine owne long liuing memory" (Poetical Works 410). The sonnet to the Earle of Essex employs the same language:

But when my Muse, whose fethers nothing flitt
Doe yet but flagg, and lowly lerne to fly
With bolder wing shall dare alofte to sty
To the last praises of this Faery Queene,
Then shall it make more famous memory
Of thine Heroicke parts, such as they beene:
Till then vouchsafe thy noble countenaunce
To these first labours needed furtheraunce. (Poetical Works 411)
While "countenance" in these two instances suggests earlier senses of the word to mean "position" or "standing," the pun on countenance as "face" is unmistakable when prosopopoeia is understood as a mnemonic act.

The extent to which "facing" is viewed as a kind of remembering becomes apparent when Spenser equates "defacing" with forgetting. In the sonnet to the Lord of Hunsdon, whom Spenser praises for his deeds in battle, Lord Hunsden is said to pacify the Northern rebels "And their disloiall powre defaced clene,/The record of enduring memory" (Poetical Works 412). He is praised for defacing from the record of enduring memory the memory of the Northern rebels, and for this act Spenser assures him, "Liue Lord for euer in this lasting verse,/That all posteritie thy honour may reherse." A similar moment occurs in The Faerie Queene, Book Three, in which Britomart, while receiving Merlin's prophecies concerning the future of her race, asks Merlin, "Will not long misery late mercy make,/But shall their name for euer be defast,/And quite from the earth their memory be rast?" (III.3.43.7-9). This equation between defacing and forgetting is not difficult to imagine when one recalls the purpose of Protestant iconoclasm, or defacing, of Catholic icons: the Protestant goal was to erase from the earth the memory of Catholicism's existence.

Spenser argues the importance of patronage to the memory of both the poet and the patron in The Teares of the Muses, in which the Muses are given voices to give voice to their despair over the state of poetry. The dedication to Lady Strange supplies an apt epithet to Spenser's message in the poem itself: "I devised this last slender meanes . . . that by honouring you they might know me, and by knowing me they might honour you. Vouchsafe noble Lady to accept this simple remembrance. . . ."2 Throughout this poem the Muses bewail the current state of poetry by using the metaphor of defacing, which suggests that not just poetry but good poetry must be supported for the proper "facing" to occur.3 Polyhymnia, Muse of Rhetoric, speaks most specifically of this in the last speech of the poem, explaining how bad writing defaces the personification of Poetry: "Heapes of huge words uphoorded hideously . . ./Have mard the face of goodly Po‘sie,/And made a monster of their fantasie" (553, 557-58). This act of defacing is compared soon after to an act of iconoclasm:

But now nor Prince nor Priest doth her [Poetry] maintaine,
But suffer her prophaned for to be
Of the base vulgar, that with hands unclene
Dares to pollute her hidden mysterie.

And treadeth under foote hir holie things,
Which was the care of Kesars and of Kings. (565-570)

But "One onelie lives . . . /That with rich bountie and deare cherishment,/ Supports the praise of noble Po‘sie" (571, 573-74). That one is Elizabeth, who is said here to support poetry, but as William Oram writes in the introduction, "This is of course a picture of Elizabeth as her poets and learned men would have liked her to be, not as she was, and it attempts by mirroring her ideal self to persuade her to live up to it" (Shorter Poems 266). Without poetry, without Spenser's poetry, the poem asserts, the proper kind of prosopopoeia cannot occur, only acts of defacing.

The mock-epic Virgils Gnat works in the same way. The poem tells of a gnat who, upon trying to save a sleeping shepherd from an approaching snake, gets swatted, goes to Hades, and returns as a ghost to complain to the shepherd. The poem becomes a catalogue (one might say memory palace) of epic heroes and mythology as the Gnat recounts all that he sees in Hades. After the complaint, the shepherd, feeling sufficiently guilty, decides to erect a monument in memory of the Gnat.4 Speaking of the similarity between this poem and Teares of the Muses, Ronald Bond comments, "Since, like The Teares of the Muses, Virgils Gnat deals with the interdependence between the lowly poet and the sponsors who authorize his writing, the erection of that monument suggests that the patron is capable of conferring fame on the author just as much as the author is capable of 'eternizing' the patron" (Shorter Poems 296). The symbiotic relationship between poet and patron creates a memorable monument for the patron and secures fame and fortune (i.e. patronage) for the poet.

The erected monument, the tomb, has special significance in terms of the dynamic of mourning central to prosopopoeia. There is consensus among twentieth-century theorists of prosopopoeia that mourning motivates the desire to "face" the dead so that the dead can speak. J. Hillis Miller, for example, in considering the tropology of Ovid's Metamorphoses, and in particular the story of Pygmalion, finds in the Pygmalion myth a prototype of prosopopoeia:

If most of the metamorphoses in the Metamorphoses go from human to inhuman, life to death, animate to inanimate, the coming alive of Galatea goes the other way. The name for the figure of speech of which this metamorphosis is the literalizing allegory is prosopopoeia. This trope ascribes a face, a name, or a voice to the absent, the inanimate, or the dead. (3-4)
In this giving voice to the dead, the dead are memorialized in a kind of resurrection that makes them undead but yet not alive. Ned Lukacher recognizes this dynamic in his treatment of prosopopoeia in Primal Scenes. He locates an origin for prosopopoeia in the masks of Greek tragedy and the intended effect these were meant to have as a form of "half-mourning":
The Greek prosopon and the Latin persona signify an inseparable connection between the theatrical and the chthonian. They signify the inseparable connection between taking on the voice of the other and mourning. In assuming the voice of the dead, the masked actor performs an act of half- mourning, reminding the audience not only that the voice that speaks is already dead but also that it lives on behind the mask. With each utterance the voice announces that it is neither properly dead nor alive but somewhere between the two. (90)
The places of the stage and the crypt, the living and the dead, collapse in the mask of prosopopoeia so that the dead cannot yet be finally dead.

This is precisely what we see in the figure of the dead gnat, albeit a humorous treatment of this feature of prosopopoeia. The gnat is given a voice to recount its experience to the unknowing shepherd so that the shepherd can properly mourn its passing. Its past heroism and present suffering require recognition. In response, the shepherd erects a monument in memory of the gnat, a memorial tomb so that it will not be forgotten.5 This moment is consistent with Paul de Man's formulation of prosopopoeia as "the fiction of the voice-from-beyond-the-grave" ("Autobiography as Defacement" 927).6

We see the same dynamic involved in Spenser's complaint entitled The Ruines of Time. The narrator of the poem chances upon the site of a former Roman city named Verulamium (called "Verlame" in the poem), which once stood on the shore of the Thames River, and discovers a personification or "Genius" of the city, weeping on that very spot. Much of what follows in the poem is the voice of Verlame lamenting the fall of Rome, the passing of power, the mutability of earthly existence. The role of this act of prosopopoeia in this complaint is highlighted in the opening lines, in the narrator's description of an absence:

It chaunced me on day beside the shore
Of silver streaming Thamesis to bee,
Nigh where the goodly Verlame stood of yore,
Of which there now remaines no memorie,
Nor anie little moniment to see,
By which the travailer, that fares that way,
This once was she, may be warned to say. (Shorter Poems 232)
No monument exists, and therefore, in the language of these opening lines, no memory of the ruined city. Immediately after these lines appears the spirit of the city, its prosopopoeia, in the form of a female "Genius" who then provides with the "fiction of her voice-from-beyond-the-grave" a memorable monument to the city that once stood there.

It is within Spenser's poem, however, that this mnemonic monument is built so as to remember the city. It is also within this poem that Spenser remembers many dead members of Elizabeth's court, including the Earl of Leicester and Sir Philip Sidney, providing for them a literary monument of the kind for which Spenser wanted his patrons to patronize him. In this sense the poem serves as a reminder similar to those in the dedicatory sonnets examined above insofar as it reminds its readers of the anonymity of death, an anonymity that is inevitable outside of the commemorative parameters of the poem. Such reminding is the impetus behind the lines preceding these laments for Leicester and Sidney, lines which again point to the equation of defacement and forgetting:

But whie (unhappie wight) doo I thus crie,
And grieve that my remembrance quite is raced
Out of the knowledge of posteritie,
And all my antique moniments defaced?
Sith I doo dailie see things highest placed,
So soone as fates their vitall thred have shorne,
Forgotten quite as they were never borne. (ll. 176-182)
Immediately after these lines, the lament for Leicester begins, making him and the other subjects of the lament those "daily things highest placed" who are forgotten soon after they have died, the fates cutting their vital thread. These lines reflect Verlame's acceptance of the permanence of forgetting: like the famous place for which she is the Genius, those placed high in Elizabeth's court too will become "antique moniments defaced." Again, Spenser ironically remembers them in a poem about their being forgotten.

While it certainly is an exaggeration to say that these prominent figures would be immediately forgotten, Spenser would have liked them to think otherwise: hence the eulogy on the "'eternizing' powers of poetry" in lines 344-490.7 Here again one finds a straightforward pitch to those who desire immortal fame, a pitch for financial support:

How manie great ones may remembred be,
Which in their daies most famouslie did florish?
Of whome no word we heare, nor signe now see,
But as things wipt out with a sponge to perishe,
Because they living, cared not to cherishe
No gentle wits, through pride or covetize,
Which might their names for ever memorize. (ll. 358-364)
The "gentle wits" are poets like Spenser who need to be "cherished" (i.e. taken care of within the patronage system) so that they can forever memor(ial)ize those who flourished famously. The word and the sign become timeless monuments in this equation, "For [the Muses] be daughters of Dame memorie" who can break the gates of hell and carry out their souls into immortality:
The seven fold yron gates of grislie Hell,
And horrid house of sad Proserpina,
They able are with power of mightie spell
To breake, and thence the soules to bring awaie
Out of dread darkenesse, to eternall day,
And them immortall make, which else would die
In foule forgetfulnesse, and nameles lie. (ll. 372-379)
Here, forgetfulness and namelessness are equated with death, but namelessness can be avoided if the person desiring remembrance enters into Spenser's linguistic economy. Without the aid of the "daughters of Dame memorie," one is doomed to "foule forgetfulnesse."

Spenser emphasizes that it is not just any monument that will do to commemorate a famous person; only literary monuments will do, for the monuments of gravestones and mausoleums are subject to time's ravaging hand. The following stanza indicates this in a catalogue of monumental structures destroyed in time:

Such one Mausolus made, the worlds great wonder,
But now no remnant doth thereof remaine:
Such one Marcellus, but was torne with thunder:
Such one Lisippus, but is worne with raine:
Such one King Edmond, but was rent for gaine.
All such vaine moniments of earthlie masse,
Devour'd of Time, in time to nought doo passe. (ll. 414-420)8
Only poetry can truly guarantee one's remembrance, as the stanza immediately following this one indicates:
But fame with golden wings aloft doth flie,
Above the reach of ruinous decay,
And with brave plumes doth beate the azure skie,
Admir'd of base-borne men from farre away:
Then who so will with vertuous deeds assay
To mount to heaven, on Pegasus must ride,
And with sweete Poets verse be glorifide. (ll. 421-427)
As long as one is remembered in verse, one will never die, for Spenser's verse will live forever, and it is in the verse that the commemorated live on: "Thy Lord shall never die, the whiles this verse / Shall live, and surely it shall live for ever: / For ever it shall live, and shall rehearse / His worthie praise. . . . Such grace the heavens doo to my verses give" (ll. 253-256, 259).9

Despite this distinction between the durability of stone monuments and that of printed texts, the permanence of print could make the act of prosopopoeia like that of erecting an engraved monument, insofar as the disembodied voice of the dead, the act of mourning that prosopopoeia represents, or the person being "faced" (like Queen Elizabeth, for instance) become fixed in print. While Spenser expressed his fear of his texts succumbing to the "cankerworms of writ," his age of print saw a new protection against the natural decay of books: "After the advent of print, however, the durability of writing material became less significant; preservation could be achieved by using abundant supplies of paper rather than scarce and costly skin. Quantity counted for more than quality" (Eisenstein 79). Vast numbers of relatively uniform texts become the equivalent of carving letters in stone: print in the sixteenth century begins to take on the status of the monumental.10

In fact, it is this monumental status of print which makes the sixteenth century differ from the medieval manuscript culture that preceded it. The manuscript was subject to any number of changes in its textual life, for various reasons, often because it was reproduced one copy at a time by scribal monks who sometimes incorporated errors. Chaucer bemoans this problem in a poem entitled "Chaucers wordes unto Adam, His Owne Scriveyn," in which the poet asks his scrivener to "wryte more trewe," warning him against "negligence and rape."

Chaucer's poem was necessary because scribes like Adam were forced by their jobs, wittingly or unwittingly, to become collaborators; their mistakes, as well as their intentional revisions, were immediately incorporated into the work and copied faithfully, or unfaithfully, by subsequent scribes. The invasion of a work by censorship, commentary, additions, sequels, or simply by scribal inefficiency, was the rule rather than the exception. (Sturges 115-16)
Scholars sometimes forget this feature of medieval textuality, but the fact of its frequency allows the contrasting permanence of print to become clear.11 This was a novelty in the fifteenth and sixteenth century, one that Spenser took advantage of by continuously pointing out the monumental status of printed verse in poems that frequently invoke the funereal emotion of mourning as somebody or another is commemorated.12 In a real sense, Spenser continuously conceives of books over and over again as the "tombs of those who cannot die."13

Such a formulation would suggest that prosopopoeia, in its status as an act of mourning as well as its desire for monumentality, is a trope peculiarly suited to writing, and particularly to print. De Man says as much in his essay "Hypogram and Inscription" when he writes that "prosopopeia . . . is the very figure of the reader and of reading" (de Man 45). Elsewhere, he writes that "to read is to understand, to question, to know, to forget, to erase, to deface, to repeat--that is to say, the endless prosopopoeia by which the dead are made to have a face and a voice which tells the allegory of their demise and allows us to apostrophize them in our turn" (de Man, "Shelley Disfigured" 68). The only way the dead can be given a voice, a life, that is lasting and permanent is in letters. The difference between prosopopoeia in oral narrative and prosopopoeia in printed writing is the difference between "writing on the wind" and writing in stone: one can be lost whereas the other can be preserved.14

Each act of writing, which allows for acts of reading, then, is an act of prosopopoeia, a giving voice to a voiceless character, a bringing to life of something dead, inanimate, alive only in language. Hillis Miller recognizes this feature of prosopopoeia as well, calling it "the fundamental generative linguistic act making a given story possible" (Hillis Miller, Versions of Pygmalion 13). Narrative becomes, in this formulation, the extension of prosopopoeia, the putting into play of the resurrected voices. De Man makes similarly sweeping statements about the significance of prosopopoeia, calling it "the master trope of poetic discourse" ("Hypogram" 48). But the power of prosopopoeia, according to de Man, resides in its ability to call into question figuration itself. In its status as a form of catachresis,15 the arbitrariness of signification becomes apparent: "Prosopopeia undoes the distinction between reference and signification on which all semiotic systems, including Riffaterre's, depend" ("Hypogram" 50).

Defining all semiotic systems as unstable, as deconstructionists like de Man are wont to do, reminds one that the tropes that allow us to communicate themselves hinder communication. So it is with prosopopoeia as the trope of reading. At the end of "Shelley Disfigured," de Man equates reading with monumentalization, the fixing of a meaning in stone, one might say, the denial of language's inherent fluidity or its freezing. Reading becomes, in this case, an act of disfiguration, of de-facement, something to avoid but something that is unavoidable.16 This is unavoidable because it is part of the tropic nature of language. Hillis Miller finds in Pygmalion the perfect personification or prosopopoeia of this process:

A prosopopoeia is a human creation, a product of the capacity within language for tropological substitution. We can, for example, shift the name of a part of the human body to a feature of the landscape and speak of the face of a mountain. This operation is concealed when the anthropomorphism then becomes part of ordinary language. We forget that we ourselves have artfully personified the mountain and are fooled into taking our own creation literally. . . . Pygmalion is so skillful an artist, skilled even in concealing his art from himself, that he is taken in by his own fabrication: it seems to him that Galatea must be a real girl. (8-9)
Figuring literalism as a statue and an act of literalistic reading as a turning to stone has been found in Dante and Chaucer as well as Ovid: "But in what sense exactly is Dorigen turned to stone? In Dante, Medusa is a figure of literalism, of the letter that kills, and correspondingly, of that kind of reading which insists on the letter and resists figuration . . ." (Shoaf, Dante 16). These same concerns appear in de Man and Hillis Miller, who locate prosopopoeia as incorporating fundamental aspects of language.

Spenser appears to exhibit such an awareness in his poem Prosopopoia, or Mother Hubberds Tale, which typically goes by its subtitle but which I will refer to as Prosopopoia to remind us, as I think Spenser wanted us to be reminded, that this is a poem about the powers of language, of figuration, of prosopopoeia itself.17 The poem recounts the narrator's recollection of a story told by Mother Hubberd, one of his visiting friends who is there to help him "deceave" his senses with stories as he lies bedridden. The story tells of the deceitful behavior of a Fox and an Ape as they swindle all whom they encounter for a profit. In the process, they assume different identities as they "fashion" themselves to the opportunities that become available in their travels: first they disguise themselves as a Soldier and his retainer, tricking a shepherd to allow them to watch his flock, which they subsequently devour; next, at the advice of a priest, they become a parish priest and his clerk and abuse their office by taking advantage of the parishioners; then they become courtiers, fitting right in to the hypocrisis of court life; finally they adopt the identity of a king and his advisor, stealing a crown, mitre and skin from a sleeping lion and enjoying his wealth. In every case they don their "masks" in order to steal from those they fool.

It is precisely in their capacity as thieves that they come to represent the duplicitous nature of language. The Fox and the Ape, in their shape-shifting capacity, signify signification itself in their ability to attach to, detach from and re-attach to different referents at will. Their actions in the poem come to reflect the action of language and specifically of the trope prosopopoeia; as such, they personify prosopopoeia itself. If prosopopoeia means "face-making," then these two embody this principle in their continuously shifting identity, and as such become a prosopopoeia of prosopopoeia.18 And if the Fox and Ape are meant to be metaphors for prosopopoeia, and prosopopoeia is, as de Man writes, the "trope of tropes," then their representation as thieves translates to the thieving quality of tropes, the way that tropes allow for the theft of one word's meaning or sense for the benefit of another word's enhanced meaning.19

Van den Berg believes that Spenser writes about this quality of language in order to overcome it, almost as though representing the evil will bring about a kind of cure:

The poem's value inheres less in the satiric warning Spenser may have wished to convey to his sovereign about abuses in her kingdom than in the exercise of imaginative power that recreates those abuses in the fictive form of Fox and Ape; as Yeats would say, "Only when we are gay over a thing, and can play with it, do we show ourselves its master, and have minds clear enough for strength." (97)
Van den Berg assumes that Spenser desires to master the kinds of abuses that the Fox and Ape represent, but I would argue that Spenser desires no such mastery, that if he can be said to have any purpose that purpose would be to demonstrate the duplicity of language. What better way to illustrate this than by ending the story with Mercury, messenger god of language, patron of thieves and literacy, arriving to bring the Fox and Ape to justice by doing just what they do:
Through power of that, his cunning theeveries
He wonts to work, that none the same espies;
And through power of that, he putteth on,
What shape he list in apparition. (ll. 1287-1290)
Van den Berg rightly observes that "Spenser symbolizes in Mercury an ambivalent attitude toward the nature of the poet's power" (98), but he concludes that "The poet [like Mercury] has assumed the guise of Mother Hubberd, adopting her base style as a way of entering the world corrupted by Fox and Ape" (99). This latter statement implies that the poet does not participate in the corrupt world he is trying to correct, that his adoption of Mother Hubberd's base style is an innocent maneuver meant to correct the "amorality" of human art.

I would argue, however, that the poem shows us that no such mastery is possible, no moralistic transcendence occurs. The very tropes of language themselves, which are figured as thieves smuggling meaning, as plunderers of the denotative meanings of words, make it impossible to escape participating in these "crimes of language." If the poet is like Mercury, as Van den Berg asserts, then he is like the ultimate defacer, one who works "cunning theeveries" in order to steal whatever identity he requires to get his message across. This, in fact, seems to be what the narrator has done in adopting Mother Hubberd's "bad tongue." He admits to defacing her tale at the end:

So Mother Hubberd her discourse did end:
Which pardon me, if I amisse have pend,
For weake was my remembrance it to hold,
And bad her tongue that it so bluntly tolde. (ll. 1385-1388)
The problem with Van den Berg's conclusion is the problem with the narrator, a problem which comes clear in the opening lines. The "righteous Maide" Virgo (or Astraea) has fled the corrupt world because she disdains the "sinfull worlds upbraide" (ll. 1-2), leaving behind "the hot Syrian dog" to corrupt "th'ayre with his noysome breath, / And powr'd on th'earth plague, pestilence, and death" (ll. 5, 7-8). Tradition has it that during the dog days of summer madness reigned over the earth, that the dog-star made people go mad. It is this madness that plagues the narrator and therefore makes him unreliable:
Emongst the rest a wicked maladie
Raign'd emongst men, that manie did to die,
Depriv'd of sense and ordinarie reason;
That it to Leaches seemed strange and geason.
My fortune was mongst manie others moe,
To be partaker of their common woe (ll. 9-14)
Both Van den Berg and Oram argue that the narrator is not a con-man: "Of crucial importance in understanding the work is the narrator--a figure who, like Mercury, is an artist but who, unlike the Fox and the Ape, is not a con-man" (Shorter Poems 333). I am suggesting that, because the narrator is an artist like Mercury, a poet, he cannot help but be a con-man.

The importance of Prosopopoia lies in the perspective it provides on Spenser's ambivalence to the trope that is so central to his later work, that is an emblem of the new, monumental mnemonic system of print literacy that he was embracing. Though he "faces" Elizabeth in The Faerie Queene, he is very much aware that it is an act of forgery akin to the gimmicks of Archimago. The verbs "to face" and "to forge" occur side by side in two instances, as though synonyms, implicating prosopopoeia as a devious procedure. The first instance comes in the Priest's talk to the Fox and Ape, when his advice turns from the subject of how to obtain a benefice to how to succeed at Court:

But if these list unto the Court to throng,
And there to hunt after the hoped pray,
Then must thou thee dispose another way:
For there thou needs must learne, to laughe, to lie,
To face, to forge, to scoffe, to companie,
To crouche, to please, to be a beetle stock
Of thy great Masters will, to scorne or mock (ll. 502-508)
"To lie,/ To face, to forge": this does not paint a flattering portrait of what a courtier has to do in order to succeed, and it could be read as a bitter picture of Spenser's own experience. The other moment comes in Book Five of The Faerie Queene, in the description of the villain Malengin in canto nine:
Thereto both his owne wylie wit, (she sayd)
And eke the fastnesse of his dwelling place,
Both vnassaylable, gaue him great ayde:
For he so crafty was to forge and face,
So light of hand, and nymble of his pace,
So smooth of tongue, and subtile in his tale,
That could deceive one looking in his face;
Therefore by name Malengin they him call,
Well knowen by his feates, and famous ouer all. (st. 5)
Malengin is smooth of tongue because he is a rhetorician, as we see in stanza 12, when he tries to soothe the damsell Samient: "But when the villaine saw her so affrayd, / He gan with guilefull words her to perswade, / To banish feare" (ll. 4-6). As a rhetorician, he uses language like a net to capture the damsell: "To which whilest she lent her intentiue mind, / He suddenly his net vpon her threw, / That ouersprad her like a puffe of wind" (9.14.1-3). This description echoes other passages in Spenser's poems that figure questionable rhetoricians and/or poets as spiders who weave nets (or "texts") of language.20

So, despite Spenser's investment in prosopopoeia as the monumental trope of print, as that which will secure him and his wealthy and generous patrons' fame, he understands the deceitful quality of the language in which he writes and figures his anxiety concerning this in dangerous and disruptive characters like Archimago and Malengin. The ambivalence that Van den Berg notes in Spenser's presentation of Mercury actually pervades his corpus, and can be attributed, as I have tried to suggest, to his involvement in a transitional period of shifting mnemonics. This grammatological sensitivity to Spenser's historical moment and the apparatus within which he worked has yielded a portrait of an inventor who has invented a hybrid mnemonic that includes both the ancient and marginalized tradition of the memory palace and the emergent monumentality of print. Further consideration of the poetry will demonstrate Spenser's ambivalence concerning the advantages of writing, which are only enhanced by print, as opposed to its apparent dangers. Ultimately, we see a poet who is aware, only unconsciously perhaps, that the new mnemonic of print is threatening an entire tradition but who is not quite committed to preventing its advent.

The Ideology of Depth and the Prosopopoeia of the Book

For earlier twentieth century thinkers, the ideology of alphabetic literacy--which engenders attendant notions of authority, individuality, and autonomy--had become habitual. The invention of new media such as radio, television, and computer technologies, especially the most recent breakthroughs in information sciences, however, has challenged the comfortable assumptions of the literate apparatus, such that the historical and linguistic origins of such assumptions are coming more and more to be exposed. Coincident to the emergence of the new media, too, is the advent of poststructural forms of analysis, which compel the philosopher to discover the metaphors underlying an ideological supposition in order to reveal their motivating force. This force is the force of the dead metaphor, which constitutes the force of ideology as it is forged in habits of language use. So what are the dead metaphors governing language use in the print apparatus?

Lakoff and Johnson are quite good at reminding us of the dead metaphors that we rely upon, that we have forgotten with decades and even centuries of usage. In their book Metaphors We Live By, for instance, they expose the prevalence of depth at the heart of fundamental concepts of communication. As an example, they recognize depth as a common denominator underlying the three metaphorical concepts "argument is a container," "argument is a building," and "argument is a journey." Depth does not work the same way for each: "In the BUILDING and CONTAINER metaphors, what is deeper is more basic. The most basic parts of the argument are the deepest: the foundation and the core. However, in the JOURNEY metaphor, deep facts are those that are not obvious" (100-101). The journey metaphor suggests that an argument "covers ground," but it also requires that difficult points be covered to a certain degree of depth, as seen in the following example: "We have come to a point where we must explore the issues at a deeper level " (101).

The point I wish to make is that, in each of these metaphorical concepts, depth is a privileged metaphor. One is required to have a "foundation" and a "core" in an argument to be successful according to an ideology of depth, because depth represents the basic parts of an argument. In the journey metaphor, too, depth is privileged, as it represents difficulty, not insurmountable difficulty but difficulty that one overcomes by "going deeper." The privileged status of this metaphor becomes clear when one encounters its counterpart, the surface, as can be seen in the following example that Lakoff and Johnson employ to demonstrate another complex overlapping of the journey metaphor with the UNDERSTANDING IS SEEING metaphor: "In an argument the superficial points (those on the surface) are obvious; they are easy to see, easy to understand. But the deeper points are not obvious. It requires effort--digging--to reveal them so that we can see them" (103). The surface is equated with superficiality, a trait which male chauvinists attribute to blond-haired women: they are shallow because they cannot think deep thoughts.

Depth did not always bear this exalted status. As previously mentioned, Michael Near's grammatological study of Beowulf claims that the poem manifests an anxiety toward writing that is caused by the poet's investment in the values of orality. This anxiety over literacy is figured in a sword hanging in the cave within Grendel's mere, which constitutes the only instance of writing in the entire poem. Because it is both submerged in the mere and tells a story of submergence, the status of writing is suspect:

This unambiguous association of writing with submersion and alienation--the suggestion that the technology of writing is part of a supernatural art practiced by those isolated from human company, by creatures such as Grendel--acknowledges the existence of literacy but simultaneously suggests that its practice is deeply suspect and that its practitioners are psychologically distant from the known community of voices into which writing has been brought as a remnant of a hidden and alien world. (324)
The monsters, as Near states, come from a deep place, and this deep place is associated with writing by means of the sword's presence--the writing on which tells of another instance of submersion and drowning in a deep place. Near recognizes in this reading of Beowulf that the poem was a product of a transitional period, a period when writing was first becoming available to the early Anglo-Saxons but when it had not yet been fully embraced. As a participant in an oral culture, the Beowulf poet recognized the threat inherent within the emerging literate apparatus and subsequently embodied this threat within the two monsters of the mere.

Spenser's moment is likewise transitional, but this transition differs in the sense that it is more an extension of values already inherent in chirography than the emergence of a radically alternative epistemology, as in the example of the Beowulf poet above. Ong has noted the "residual orality" that still existed for the British in the sixteenth century and that would last until the Romantic period.21 Something of this residual orality can be viewed in Spenser's treatment of depth, which is frequently similar to the Beowulf poet's as Near represents it. But Spenser also presents some of the privileging of depth that is more familiar to our contemporary standards. In this way, then, the poet reveals an ambivalence toward depth, an ambivalence which further demonstrates its historical origin as well as its ideological effects.

Several occasions in the poetry present depth as acceptable, even desirable, connecting it to reading, writing, and learning. In Prosopopoia, for instance, the narrator describes an illiterate priest whom the Fox and Ape encounter on the road:

For read he could not evidence, nor will,
Ne tell a written word, ne write a letter,
Ne make one title worse, ne make one better:
Of such deep learning little had he neede,
Ne yet of Latine, ne of Greeke, that breede
Doubts mongst Divines, and difference of texts,
From whence arise diversitie of sects,
And hatefull heresies, of God abhor'd:
But this good Sir did follow the plaine word,
Ne medled with their controversies vaine. . . . (382-391)
If we accept the supposed naivete of Mother Hubberd as a narrator, this passage becomes an ironic comment on the medieval nature of this priest's theology. Mother Hubberd says that this "deep learning," which entails knowledge of Latin and Greek, causes the "hatefull heresies" that were a product of the Protestant Reformation. The priest, a suspect character to begin with, embraces a medieval Catholicism to which Spenser is of course opposed. "Deep learning" is thus valued in this instance, as it is that which enabled the Reformation to occur. More significantly, reading and writing are valued in terms of the access they provide to a depth.

Another instance of valorization occurs at the end of The Teares of the Muses, during Polyhymnia's final complaint about the state of poetry. After she says that bad poets deface Poesy, she recalls "ages past," when poetry was the province of the powerful:

Whilom in ages past none might professe
But Princes and high Priests that secret skill,
The sacred lawes therein they wont expresse,
And with deepe Oracles their verses fill:
Then was shee held in soveraigne dignitie,
And made the noursling of Nobilitie. (559-64)
This was a time when Poetry was the "nursling of Nobility" and "held in sovereign dignity." The fact that their verses are filled with "deepe Oracles" demonstrates the positive connotation of depth, as it is depth that grants such dignified qualities to their verses.

Here Spenser names himself High-Priest of Elizabethan poetry, since it is his verse that will cleanse the current pollutions, if only the Queen and other wealthy patrons adequately finance his endeavors. There is, after all, something holy to the act of writing: God carves the ten commandments into stone in the same way that he writes his epistle in the hearts of Christians. With Christians, though, he writes "not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts" (2 Corinthians 3: 3). This is certainly the allusion within the passage in which Red Cross Knight speaks of the lesson learned after being freed from Orgoglio's dungeon:

This dayes ensample hath this lesson deare
Deepe written in my heart with yron pen,
That blisse may not abide in state of mortall men. (I.8.44.7-9)
The deep writing that occurs here literally incorporates the word of God; the level of depth achieved is a result of the impression made upon the penitent's heart.

The scene of writing, however, becomes the primary site of ambivalence for Spenser in his rendition of the problematic of depth, for the writers in The Faerie Queene are the ones who figure depth and the dangers inherent in depth.22 The first and most obvious occurrence of this tendency arises early in Book One, in the description of Archimago. After inviting the unsuspecting hero and his damsel to spend the night at his hermitage, he goes to his study and "seekes out mighty charmes":

Then choosing out few wordes most horrible,
(Let none them read) thereof did verses frame,
With which and other spelles like terrible,
He bad awake blacke Plutoes griesly Dame. (I.1.37.1-4)
Archimago is here one who "frames verses," similar to the poet himself, and his magic is associated with depth, as he calls forth "out of deepe darknesse dred / Legions of Sprights" (I.1.38.1-2), one of which he sends "through the world of waters wide and deepe / To Morpheus house" (I.1.39.2-3). Archimago as writer is intimate with depth--with deep darkness, with the deep residence of Morpheus.

Merlin, too, is also figured as a writer whose practice of magic groups him with Archimago as a writer intimate with depth. It is his "deepe science, and hell-dreaded might" (III.2.18.7), associating the depth that the sciences he practices allows him to achieve with hell, that creates the mirror in which Britomart views Artegall. And when Britomart goes to visit him, she has to go "low vnderneath the ground, / In a deepe delue, farre from the vew of day" (III.3.7.6-7). Upon entering, Britomart finds Merlin "Deepe busied bout worke of wondrous end, / And writing strange characters in the ground, / With which the stubborn feends he to his seruice bound" (III.3.14.67-9). The concentration necessary to carry out the activity of writing here makes it a "deep business."

Another infamous Spenserian antagonist, not normally associated with writing, is also figured in this manner. Mammon, typically conceived as an emblem of Avarice, is obliquely described in terms of textuality:

His yron coate all ouergrowne with rust,
Was vnderneath enueloped with gold,
Whose glistring glosse darkned with filthy dust,
Well yet appeared, to haue beene of old
A worke of rich entayle, and curious mould,
Wouen with antickes and wild Imagery. (II.7.4.1-6)
This coat is something "woven," something that has a "gloss," terms which can also be attributed to textuality. Its textual nature is verified a few stanzas later, when Guyon says to him, "I read thee rash" (II.7.7.8, emphasis added). Mammon is a rhetorician, one who weaves tenuous texts of sophistic persuasion as he tries to woo Guyon into sin. And like Archimago, he is familiar with deep dark places: to get to his place, Mammon leads Guyon down "A darkesome way, which no man could descry, / That deepe descended through the hollow ground, / And was with dread and horrour compassed around" (20.7-8). Furthermore, while Guyon tours the Cave of Mammon, he sees the Garden of Proserpina, through which "the riuer of Cocytus deepe" (56.8) flows, and he sees Tantalus, who "drenched lay full deepe" (57.9). "Deepe was he drenched to the vpmost chin" (58.1), the poet repeats, after which he recounts that Guyon "espyde / Another wretch, whose carkasse deepe was drent / Within the riuer" (61.1-3), who soon reveals himself to be Pilate. Here, depth represents not only the place of punishment--Hell--but also the extent of the punishments, thereby doubling the jeopardy that depth represents.

For a final rhetorical antagonist associated with depth we must return to a passage late in Book Five, which features Malengin. Malengin is a rhetorician par excellence who is also said to inhabit deep places:

And eke the rocke, in which he wonts to dwell,
Is wondrous strong, and hewen farre vnder ground
A dreadfull depth, how deepe no man can tell;
But some doe say, it goeth downe to hell. (V.9.6.2-5)
Like Malengin's cave, other places of depth are associated with Hell. For instance, when Duessa seeks the aid of the Goddess Night to save the wounded Sansjoy, she is said to carry the "heauie corse with easie pace / To yawning gulfe of deepe Auernus hole" (I.5.31.2-3). And in Arthur's apostrophe to Night, spoken in frustration due to his failed search for Florimell early in Book Three, he wonders why God would call her "oft from Stygian deepe" (III.4.56.7).

The dungeons of evil characters are also always associated with depth. The House of Pride, presided over by Lucifera, has a dungeon where those enthralled to this sin have been cast. Red Cross Knight manages to escape this trap, for "his wary Dwarfe had spide, / Where in a dongeon deepe huge numbers lay / Of caytiue wretched thrals" (I.5.45.7-8). In the Orgoglio episode, however, after drinking from an enchanted well, the Knight is unable to fight Orgoglio, who "in a Dongeon deepe him threw without remorse" (I.7.15.9). The dungeon that Proteus puts Florimell in also is repeatedly said to be a deep dungeon: in Book Three, for instance, when he first captures her, "Downe in a Dongeon deepe he let her fall" (III.8.41.8), and when the narrative thread picks up again late in Book Four, the narrator reminds the reader that "Vnlouely Proteus . . . Her threw into a dongeon deepe and blind" (IV.11.2.2-4) and repeats, "Deepe in the bottome of an huge great rocke / The dongeon was, in which her bound he left" (IV.11.3.1-2).

So, though writing allows for a certain depth of understanding to be achieved, though it is the instrument of God in literally embodying his word in the flesh, the depth that it brings about is highly suspect in The Faerie Queene, as the above catalogue of references ought to establish. This makes sense, given Spenser's documented suspicion of allegorical writing, his fear of not being in control of the language. This at least is the pose that he takes in, for instance, the letter to Ralegh, which opens with the rationale for his writing such a letter:

Sir knowing how doubtfully all Allegories may be construed, and this booke of mine, which I haue entituled the Faery Queene, being a continued Allegory, or darke conceit, I have thought good aswell for auoyding of gealous opinions and misconstructions, as also for your better light in reading thereof, (being so by you commanded,) to discouer unto you the general intention and meaning, which in the whole course thereof I haue fashioned, without expressing any particular purposes or by-accidents therein occasioned. (Poetical Works 407)
The assumption here is that allegory, a "dark conceit," requires "discovery" in order to avoid misconstructions of meaning, and if recent critics are right in claiming that Spenser's allegory self-reflexively inscribes the scene of writing and all its attendant darkness--a darkness reminiscent of that encountered in deep dungeons--then we see here an awareness of the slippery quality of (allegorical) language itself. Such awareness comes to be more and more prevalent as the writing and study of literature develops as an institution, eventually resulting in the hegemony of the symbol and the disparagement of allegory.

This desire to control language can be viewed in the subsequent development of literature and in the emergence of literary criticism as an institution. Each of these derives its fundamental assumptions from the apparatus of print literacy, which comes into its own for English writers during the Romantic period. As Ong has observed, "After the development of print in the mid-1400's, it took several hundred years for the invention to have its full effect in deadening the original sound world where the word has its natural habitat. By the mid-1800's, the effect of typography was at its maximum" ("Comment: Voice, Print, and Culture" 80-81). Current critiques of traditional literary criticism as developed and practiced prior to twentieth-century theoretical developments offer evidence of such unconscious assumptions. The notion of the autonomous author, an author intending a particular meaning and incorporating it in the body of his or her text, derives from the monumental status of the printed book.23 Jerome McGann, like Ong, locates the origin of these concerns in the 1800's:

These ideas are grounded in a Romantic conception of literary production, and they have a number of practical consequences for the way scholars are urged to edit texts and critics are urged to interpret them. The ideas are also widespread in our literary culture, and since they continue to go largely unexamined in the fundamental ways that seem to me necessary, they continue to operate on the level of ideology. (A Critique of Modern Textual Criticism 8).
This "ideology of final intentions," as McGann calls it, has implicated editors of pre-Romantic texts who have generalized an historically-specific mode of textuality that emerged in the 1800's to cover texts of the Medieval and Renaissance periods, whose writers had a different ethic of textual production.24 These impositions are ideologically sanctioned and institutionally perpetuated, as de Man recognizes: "But from where then does the contextual unity, which the study of texts reconfirms over and over again and to which American criticism owes its effectiveness, stem? Is it not rather that this unity . . . resides not in the poetic text as such, but in the act of interpreting this text?" (Blindness and Insight 28-29). De Man here points out that the unity taken to reside within the poetic text actually resides in a community of readers who exist within the educational institution and who are ideologically motivated in perpetuating notions of final intentions and unified poetic texts.

This seeking after unity, this desire to find the core meaning of a text, I am suggesting, results from a desire to control literary language, to grasp it, to apprehend it, by imposing a unity upon it.25 As a consequence of this desire for a controlled unity, allegory was subordinated to the symbol as the primary aesthetic figure with the emergence of Romanticism26 in that allegory, which came to be known by some as an artificial form of figuration that imposes a connection between an abstraction and its allegorization, was opposed to the symbol, which was organically conceived as a natural part of the whole which it signifies, in the spirit of synecdoche. Gadamer is clearest in articulating this phenomenon: "[A]llegory does not assume an original metaphysical relationship, such as a symbol claims but, rather, a connection created by convention and dogmatic agreement, which enables one to use a presentation in images for something that is imageless" (67). This metaphysical relationship is grounded in the assumption of a unity between symbol and thing symbolized: "According to Solger the symbolic refers to an 'existence in which the idea is recognised in some way or another', ie [sic] the inward unity of ideal and appearance that is typical of the work of art. Whereas allegory creates this meaningful unity only by pointing to something else" (Gadamer 66).27 The denial of the arbitrary allows a writer to achieve a sense of control, in that the relationship between symbol and symbolized is said to exist in the symbol and not outside of the symbol, in some arbitrary act of poetic creativity. The poet, then, would have no need to fear if one were to misread the symbol, for then the responsibility would be in the hands of the reader, whereas an allegorist like Spenser, whose allegorizations are in his control ("a pure decision of the mind," as de Man formulates allegory), fears that they will be misread and therefore feels responsible for the reception of his allegory. Arbitrariness, therefore, implies powerlessness, the kind of powerlessness that Spenser felt in producing his allegories. This is the paradox of allegory: the more in control one is, the less control one has over its reception; on the other hand, removing the control over the symbol and its organic referent from the realm of the poet conversely represents an act of taking control over language, a form of control that poststructuralism tries to undermine.

The will to power over language is achieved in one way by resorting to prosopopoeia. Though the dead are figuratively risen in a written text and monumentalized in a printed text and, what is more important, given the power to speak, this voicing is very much in control of the writer: what the dead say and how they say it are choices that the author makes. In the same way, the writer can control the kind of dialogue s/he has with the personified being or resurrected entity. An early example of this phenomenon can be seen in Theodore Beza's Icones, which creates a memory palace of dead martyrs which he offers to the reader as a place in which to dialogue with them: "Beza purports to desire that his reader actually hear the resuscitated word of the confessors and be able to engage the textual figures in conversation . . ." (Coats 23). But "the dialogue into which the reader is called is in fact one with Beza. Beza's ability to dialogue directly with the dead . . . is in dramatic counter-distinction to the martyr's inaccessibility to the readers; through the verbal encounter he becomes one with the martyrs" (24). Coats' analysis of Icones suggests that it exemplifies a conscious "authorial assertion" that actively interprets the text he composes: "The effacement of the martyrs' bodies is necessary in order for Beza to write. It is the absence produced by their death that generates the text. . . . Their bodies can only be recuperated in the form of speech, through the textual medium" (26). In the space of their death, Beza replaces an act of prosopopoeia which literally embodies the voices of the dead, allowing him to write a dialogue that ultimately writes his self.28

The will to power is also achieved by engaging in dialogue with a text. The practice of engaging in dialogue with a text was theorized in the Middle Ages, as Carruthers points out: "Medieval reading was highly active, what I have called a 'hermeneutical dialogue' between the mind of the reader and the absent voices which the written letters call forth, at times literally in the murmur of ruminative mediation" (186). The medieval phrase "voces paginarum," "the voices of the pages," evokes this notion of the prosopopoeia of the page (Carruthers 170). Instructors of the late Middle Ages in fact resorted to this form of dialogue as opposed to true dialogue with the class in order to save time so that the entire curriculum could be covered in the short time available to them. Ong writes of this occurrence: This description of late Medieval pedagogical practice as it adapted to the new curricular demands serves as another example of how the act of engaging in dialogue with a text--that is, the art of constructing a prosopopoeia of the book--generates a degree of control otherwise unattainable. The dialogue with a book maintains a level of control that is unattainable in a dialogue with a person, for one cannot predict the kinds of tangents a true conversation will take.

Such is the kind of dialogue that Gadamer promotes in his work, according to Steven Crowell, who tells of two primary metaphors that occur when one attempts in general to understand the meaning of language: the metaphor of the text and the metaphor of the dialogue. These allow for three variations of the interpretive moment as it is encountered in textual and dialogical encounters: the first views textual interpretation in terms of dialogue, the second views dialogue in terms of textuality, and the third suggests that "the two may be held apart according to their essential difference, reflecting what I will call the twofold 'ground' of intelligibility, the ethical and the ontological" (339). His ultimate purpose is to recuperate Gadamer's hermeneutics in terms of Levinas's ethical imperative, but it is his initial critique of Gadamer that I am interested in here. Gadamer employs the metaphor of dialogue, viewing as he does the text as a voice. This maneuver is in the realm of prosopopoeia and is similar to the Medieval conception highlighted above in that it enables one "to construe the text as a 'partner' in that dialogue constituted on the other side by the interpreter's (reader's) interrogative activity. The text is not primarily an object for reconstruction; its individuality is to be preserved by hearing it as a 'voice' in the conversation of tradition" (343).

This conception of the hermeneutic moment allows Gadamer to participate in the same kind of control remarked above, for it emerges, "ultimately, from a concern with the interpretation of texts" (342), interpretation being one way of controlling a text's meaning. Gadamer can conceive of dialogue with texts because he is fully invested in the logocentric privileging of voice and the pursuit of a metaphysical truth, and because he engages in dialogue with a text conceived as a person and not a person itself, he is able to pursue a "unity of meaning":

[T]he very idea of the 'unity' and 'identity' of a discourse appears to derive from the fact that texts, of whatever length, come to an end. . . . Thus the guiding notions of Gadamer's hermeneutics . . . all reveal their origin in a fundamental tendency that has its motivation in the experience of reading, namely, a tendency toward 'wholeness' and plenitude. (348-349)
The printed book provides a closure that dialogue does not, which renders the latter less controllable and therefore less likely to yield to notions of finality and unity. Prosopopoeia, therefore, as a trope of literacy, evokes the specters of (phal)logocentrism which fully participates in, or as Luce Irigaray might say, "penetrates," the ideology of depth.

So it is no surprise that Spenser would find the prospects of print literacy a questionable blessing, since his perspective is situated in the moment of transition, a moment for him of relative darkness. On the one hand, print offers both him and his patrons the kind of monumental fame that appealed to his ambition; on the other hand, the depth that print allows one to achieve is as frightening to him as the prospect of virtual reality and cyberspace technologies is to scholars, myself included, invested in the apparatus of print. His fear is reflected in ours.29

On the literary plain of battle, the Red Cross Knight will yield to Don Quixote, the advent of the novel and of a realism which would usher in, soon after, the hegemony of the symbol and Romantic ideologies of authority and textuality. Allegory will come to be called "stupid and frivolous"30 during the 500 year period of print literacy's reign, but with the return in the twentieth century of a concern for language and the pan-disciplinary consideration of linguistic questions that followed, allegory is making a come-back in literary theory and artistic practice. One reason for this is the very nature of the new technologies that include if not primarily foreground images in their "writing" and even recognize that letters themselves are images. Another reason derives from both the pressure that poststructural theorists have applied to language, examining as they do the centrality of metaphor in determining cognitive behavior, and the Derridean emphasis on picto-ideo-phonographic writing that has resulted from such inquiry.

I will now turn to a consideration of the role poststructuralism has played in the return of allegory as a preface to theorizing hypertext composition based on Deleuzoguattarian concepts of the rhizome. Electronic rhetoric, I will suggest in the next chapter, is inherently allegorical, given the possibilities for juxtaposition, typographical irony, and iconographic representation, and this factor explains my consideration of the Art of Memory (and Spenser's use of it in The Faerie Queene) as an allegorical tradition of information storage practiced prior to the age of the printed book. The Art of Memory may provide a form of information storage that is fruitful in negotiating textual production in the new age of allegory in the emergent electronic era. In the same way that Spenser straddled two mnemonic systems in his writings, one being the memory palace tradition and the other being the emerging mnemonics of print literacy, writers of electronic documents straddle both the passing mnemonics of print and the emerging mnemonics of the electronic era. It will thus be necessary in the next chapter to consider how "residual literacy," to adapt Ong's popular phrase, occurs in human-computer interface design as well as the interface of certain hypertexts as a way of highlighting the effect of cultural inertia upon current design strategies. My purpose in doing so will be to suggest that Spenser's textuality, as a representative of the allegorical tradition and of the forgotten method of the memory palace, will be more appropriate to the "writing space" of electronic media than to that of print literacy. If Cervantes's Don Quixote dominated the field of print, it was only because Spenser's Red Cross Knight did not have as much to offer the apparatus of alphabetic literacy. But insofar as hypertext will be an electronic technology that will encourage picto-ideo-phonographic writing, Spenser and the memory palace tradition, as participants in allegorical writing, will have something to offer the twenty-first century textual composer. The next chapter will take up the question of how such an offering might be accepted.


1Mary Carruthers tells of a set of glossed books of Psalms made in the twelfth century that manifests this property of mnemonic marginalia: "One of their more original features is the use of painted figures to help fix the page as a mnemonically functional visual image. These figures usually inhabit the outermost margins of the page. . . . In addition to these figures, several of the psalms have emblematic pictures painted next to their opening words; unlike the citational figures, these can occur in the inner margin where the gloss itself is written, as well as in the outermost one, suggesting that they too were considered essential in the gloss, and acted as markers for these particular psalms" (216).

2Edmund Spenser, The Yale Edition of the Shorter Poems of Edmund Spenser. Eds. William A. Oram, Einar Bjorvand, Ronald Bond, Thomas H. Cain, Alexander Dunlop, and Richard Schell (New Haven & London: Yale UP, 1989) 268. Hereafter cited as Shorter Poems.

3Defacing pervades the poem. All of nature, in fact, according to the narrator, feels the effects of the muses' tears in a pathetic fallacy of defacing: "all that els seemd faire and fresh in sight . . .Was turned now to dismall heavinesse,/Was turned now to dreadfull uglinesse" (ll.39, 41-42). Thalia, the Muse of Comedy, cries of how "Fine Counterfesaunce and unhurtfull Sport,/Delight and Laughter deckt in seemly sort" are "wholly now defaced" (197-98, 202); Euterpe, Muse of Pastoral, speaks of how "monstrous error . . ./Hath mard the face of all that semed fayre," and Ignorance, "armd with blindnesse and with boldnes stout,/(For blind is bold) hath our fayre light defaced" (257-58, 265-66); Erato, Muse of Love poetry, apostrophizes to Venus: "For lo thy Kingdome is defaced quight,/Thy scepter rent, and power put to wrack" (399-400); Calliope, Muse of Epic poetry, speaks like Clio of the decline in heroes: "They all corrupted through the rust of time,/That doth all fairest things on earth deface . . . Ne do they care to have the auncestrie/Of th'old Hero‘s memorizde anew" (433-34, 439-40).

4The language of this moment again invokes the memory palace tradition: "By that same Riuer lurking vnder greene,/Eftsoones he gins to fashion forth a place, /And squaring it in compasse well beseene,/There plotteth out a tombe by measured space" (649-52, emphasis added). The tomb is an especially significant content for a memory place, as subsequent discussion will bear out.

5This attitude of desiring commemoration did not always exist, as Philippe Aries recounts in Western Attitudes Toward Death: From the Middle Ages to the Present. At one point after the emergence of Christianity, bodies were buried in collective graves with no attempt to identify any of the individuals. Starting in the middle ages, though, a return to inscribing monuments and including an effigy of the individual, at first for the illustrious, along with the increase in plaques affixed to church walls or pillars, point to the increased desire to remember the burial place of individuals and to perpetuate their memories. Aries also suggest a connection between this phenomenon and the awareness of individuality. See pp. 46-52.

6This comes in an essay that treats Wordworth's use of prosopopoeia in his Essays upon Epitaphs, one text of which, as de Man shows, "counsels against the use of its own main figure" i.e. prosopopoeia (928). De Man's deconstruction of Wordsworth's text points to the anxiety that the poet felt, the threat of using this trope: "'Doth make us marble,' in the Essays upon Epitaphs, cannot fail to evoke the latent threat that inhabits prosopopoeia, namely that by making the dead speak, the symmetrical structure of the trope implies, by the same token, that the living are struck dumb, frozen in their own death. The surmise of the "Pause, Traveller!" thus acquires a sinister connotation that is not only the prefiguration of one's own mortality but our actual entry into the frozen world of the dead" (928). This anxiety leads Wordsworth violently to denounce the use of figurative language, for figurative language "is not the thing itself but the representation, the picture of the thing and, as such, it is silent, mute as pictures are mute." Because we are bound to using language, our dependency upon writing renders us "silent as a picture, that is to say eternally deprived of voice and condemned to muteness." Prosopopoeia therefore both restores the voice to the dead but deprives the living of authentic experience: "Death is a displaced name for a linguistic predicament, and the restoration of mortality by autobiography (the prosopopoeia of the voice and the name) deprives and disfigures to the precise extent that it restores" (930).

7See Richard Schell's introduction in Shorter Poems 225.

8These lines are similar to Spenser's sonnet translations in Theatre for Worldings, a few of which recount the process of large monumental structures, products of humankind's vanity, crumbling to the earth. Most significantly for my discussion, see, for instance, number three, which describes a tomb, a "sharped spire / Of diamant" upon which sat a golden pot,"And in this golden vessel couched were / The ashes of a mightie Emperour . . . A worthie tombe for such a worthie corps." At the end, though, "A sodaine tempest from the heaven, I saw, / With flushe stroke downe this noble monument" (Shorter Poems 472).

9Compare the following stanzas from The Faerie Queene Book 4, canto 2, in which Spenser offers his excuse for stealing Chaucer's unfinished "Squire's Tale":

But wicked Time that all good thoughts doth waste,
And workes of noblest wits to nought out weare,
That famous moniment hath quite defaste,
And robd the world of threasure endlesse deare,
The which mote haue enriched all vs heare.
O cursed Eld the cankerworme of writs,
How may these rimes, so rude as doth appeare,
Hope to endure, sith workes of heauenly wits
Are quite deuourd, and brought to nought by little bits?

Then pardon, O most sacred happie spirit,
That I thy labours lost may thus reuiue,
And steale from thee the meede of thy due merit,
That none durst euer whilest thou wast aliue,
And being dead in vaine yet may striue:
Ne dare I like, but through infusion sweete
Of thine owne spirit, which doth in me surviue,
I follow here the footing of thy feete,
That with thy meaning so I may the rather meete. (st. 33-34)

Here, Spenser fears his work falling victim to the same "cankerworm of writs," Time, which defaced the "monument" of Chaucer's tale. The topos of inadequacy is the vehicle: if this happens to such a heavenly work as Chaucer's, then it will certainly happen to these "rude rhymes." The contrast here suggests that Spenser realizes the fallibility of the statements he makes concerning poetry's immortalizing powers; as such, his eulogies to this power of poetry can be understood as a ploy for patronage.

10Jay David Bolter draws attention to this phenomenon in his treatment of the history of writing in Writing Space. He writes of how "the conceptual space of a printed book is one in which writing is stable, monumental, and controlled exclusively by an author" (11); elsewhere he characterizes the page as "the monumental writing space of ink on paper" (68). In suggesting the potential effects that computer writing like hypertext will have upon our writing practices, Bolter notes that marginal technologies of writing will become central, whereas the familiar practices of print will become pushed to the margins: "What in turn becomes marginal is precisely that quality that has been central for the last 500 years: the fixed and monumental page of print, the book that exists in thousands of identical copies and heroically resists change" (60).

11Eisenstein, too, makes a similar point: "Of all the new features introduced by the duplicative powers of print, preservation is probably the most important. To appreciate its importance, we need to recall the conditions that prevailed before texts could be set in type. No manuscript, however useful as a reference guide, could be preserved for long without undergoing corruption by copyists, and even this sort of 'preservation' rested precariously on the shifting demands of local elites and a fluctuating incidence of trained scribal labor" (78-79). Of course, since the degree of permanence that we attribute to printed texts today was only beginning to evolve back then, the sixteenth century becomes the transitional moment when this characteristic of print first became a possibility.

12Many of the minor poems, as previous discussion demonstrates, concern the mourning of various significant personages. Some of those not mentioned are Daphnaida, written for the death of Arthur Ganges' wife, and Astrophel and The Doleful Lay of Clorinda (whose attribution to Spenser is a point of contention), which were both written for Sidney.

13A quotation of the poet George Crabbe cited in Bolter 100.

14I use here the title of a subchapter in Bolter's Writing Space entitled "Writing on the Wind," in which he discusses the history of oral poetry and compares this to electronic writing. See chapter four.

15"That a catachresis can be a prosopopoeia, in the etymological sense of 'giving face,' is clear from such ordinary instances as the face of a mountain or the eye of a hurricane. But is it possible that, instead of prosopopoeia being a subspecies of the generic type catachresis (or the reverse), the relationship between them is more disruptive than that between genus and species" (de Man, "Hypogram" 44).

16"If it is true and unavoidable that any reading is a monumentalization of sorts, the way in which Rousseau is read and disfigured in The Triumph of Life puts Shelley among the few readers who 'guessed whose statue those fragments had composed.' Reading as disfiguration, to the very extent that it resists historicism, turns out to be historically more reliable than the products of historical archaeology. To monumentalize this observation into a method of reading would be to regress from the rigor exhibited by Shelley which is exemplary precisely because it refuses to be generalized into a system'" (69).

17Most discussion of this poem reads it as an allegory of Spenser's disagreement concerning the Queen's proposed marriage to the French duke D'Alen¨on and as a critique of Lord Burghley allegorized as the Fox. See, for instance, S.K. Heninger's account in Sidney and Spenser: The Poet as Maker as well as William Nelson's The Poetry of Edmund Spenser. In his introduction, William Oram says that "The disagreement about the political allegory of the poem has distracted critical attention from the work itself" (Shorter Poems 329). The only critic in recent years to treat the issue of Spenser's use of prosopopoeia as a trope is Kent T. Van den Berg, who wants to argue that Spenser presents the Fox and the Ape as exemplars of deceit whose behavior is to be avoided: "As a comprehensive persona making, Mother Hubberds Tale sets the poet's power to personify against his disdain for the counterfeit self, and thereby exemplifies his struggle to maintain moral and aesthetic integrity in the face of a fragmented and deceptive world" (86). While I agree with Van den Berg that the poem explores "without evasion the affinity of the poet's highest aspirations to creative power with the lowest forms of greed and guile" (99), I do not agree that Spenser ultimately locates himself as separate from the world corrupted by the Fox and the Ape, as Van den Berg would like to conclude. The poem reads more, I would argue, as an acknowledgement of the inherently duplicitous quality of language itself, its inability to be controlled, its tendency, like the Fox and the Ape, to suddenly change identity and become something other than what it was.

18The language of facing pervades the poem. The Mule, advising them before their advent at Court, says in answer to the question of how they could win favor there, "How els (said he) but with a good bold face, / And with big words . . ." (ll. 645-46). While there, Reynold the Fox "Supports his credite and his countenaunce" (l. 668) as the Ape "with sharp quips joy'd others to deface" (l.707). While there, the Ape fits in, and is able to entertain them "With mumming and with masking all around" (802), but ultimately he cannot "upholde / His countenaunce in those his garments olde" (927-28). At the end of the poem, in the notorious deus ex machina which defaces the genre of the poem itself (Thomas Greene remarks that Mercury's appearance in the poem is "an extraordinary breach of decorum" [quoted in Van den Berg, note 11]; Oram writes of "the extraordinary stylistic indecorum of the episode: Spenser inserts a topos from classical epic into a medieval beast-fable, punctuating the 'base' colloquial style of the surrounding poem with the more elaborate and complex syntax of the lines in which Jove looks down to earth" [Shorter Poems 332]), Mercury defaces himself, doffing "that faire face and that Ambrosiall hew, / Which wonts to decke the Gods immortall crew" (1267-68) in order to disguise himself.

19De Man writes in "The Epistemology of Metaphor," "We have no way of defining, of policing, the boundaries that separate the name of one entity from the name of another; tropes are not just travellers, they tend to be smugglers and probably smugglers of stolen goods at that. What makes matters even worse is that there is no way of finding out whether they do so with criminal intent or not" (17).

20One instance of this occurs in II.1.8, in the description of Archimago:

Such whenas Archimago them did view,
He weened well to worke some vncouth wile,
Eftsoones vntwisting his deceiptfull clew,
He gan to weaue a web of wicked guile,
And with faire countenance and flattring stile (ll. 1-5)
"Clew" literally means "ball of thread" and is said in Smith and de Selincourt's glossary to mean "plot," thereby connecting this allusion to the poet's task of creating a plot as being "deceitfull" to the act of weaving webs and stylistics. Weaving and spiderwebs were connected in the sixteenth century to the rhetoric of sophistry, and the language describing Archimago, Mammon, and Malengin embodies these Early Modern equations of spiderwebs or nets and rhetoric, spiders and rhetoricians. The etymology of text--from "texo" meaning "to weave"--certainly fostered this analogy, but the prevalence in encyclopedic texts as well as throughout Spenser's poetry indicates its status as a sixteenth-century commonplace. In the folio on insects of Aldrovandus's encyclopedia, for instance, he mentions the proverb that makes a connection ("collatio") between the woven webs of spiders (the "texentis telas") and the feigning lies of men ("comminiscentis mendacia"): "Proverbialis videlus, illa collatio, Aranei ex sese texentis telas, et hominis ex seipso comminiscentis mendacia" (629). Alexander Ross, too, in his sixteenth-century text entitled Mystagogus Poeticus, also speaks of spiders as sophists: "Subtil and trifling Sophisters, who with intricacies and querks entangle men, are no better than Spiders, whose captious fallacies are no less hateful to the Wise, than Arachnes web was to Minerva " (30).

21See Ong, Rhetoric, Romance, and Technology chapter two: "This chapter is concerned with oral phenomena in Tudor literature, but its main interest is in oral residue rather than in consciously cultivated oral effects" (25). Later he writes, "The romantic quest for originality, the novel, the new, reveals romanticism as a typographic phenomenon. . . . Insofar as romanticism persists today, as it does, we are still in a typographic world" (294-295).

22 Spenserian criticism has made discussion of Spenser and the question of writing a commonplace. The tenor of these arguments presents Spenser as a kind of reading teacher, a poet anxious about the meanings of his poem being misconstrued. DeNeef elevates this topic to the subject of an entire book, each brief chapter pointing out how Spenser "bodies forth" his concern for readers reading literally by incorporating within his texts examples of "wrong readers" and corrupt authors: "To understand the ways in which writing and reading become problematic for the Renaissance poet, we must be alert to the metaphors which define or articulate not the success but the abuse of the Word: the parodic false maker, like Satan or Archimago or Despair; the fault-finding misreader, like Redcross, like Adam . . ." (12). Quilligan reaches the same conclusion about Red Cross Knight in her distinguishing of allegory from allegoresis, claiming that the subject matter of the former must concern the problem of reading, as in FQ I, when we see Spenser teaching us how to read by showing how poor a reader the Red Cross Knight is: "With this first episode, Spenser teaches the reader how to read The Faerie Queene " (36). David Miller also sees Red Cross Knight as being in need of reading lessons: "At the House of Holiness Spenser represents the dynamics of this conversion as a set of reading skills opposed to the literalizing hermeneutics of despair" (88). Patricia Parker, too, in Inescapable Romance, believes that the main problem for Red Cross Knight is learning how to read as he travels in "a landscape of only potential significances and disjunctive signs" (65). And Jacqueline Miller identifies this concern in the latter half of The Faerie Queene : "Commentators have noted that in the last three books of The Faerie Queene there is a growing self-consciousness and disillusionment as the poet despairs about the efficacy of his poetry; the narrative begins to attend explicitly to its own composition and to the issue of writing itself" (99).

23I recognize that this very chapter indulges the notion of the autonomous author whose intended meanings concerning his uses of prosopopoeia are transparent. Part of this is due to participation in a kind of critical routine procedure, but part is also due to a desire to look beyond the hermeneutic problems inherent within critical readings in order to approach an author, text or period heuretically, as a grammatologist.

24For this phenomenon as it occurs in Medieval textual scholarship, see Sturges, "Textual Scholarship: Ideologies of Literary Production." For an instance of how critics have imposed this contemporary view of textual production upon a historical consideration of the publication history of Spenser's Complaints, see Brink, "Who Fashioned Edmund Spenser?: The Textual History of Complaints ."

25It is to this tendency to close off the polysemy of texts that deconstruction, in part, responds. As Geoffrey Hartman writes, in his articulate and effective apology for deconstruction in Reading de Man Reading, "Having found that words were not rendered less ambiguous by being organized in a literary way--that the ambiguity, or beyond it, the ambivalence, became more complex and discomfiting--a tendency arose [among New Critics] to distinguish the literary from the linguistic in terms that relapsed into humanistic cant. De Man . . . remains authoritative on this turn toward what he calls incarnational or salvational criticism. . . . The spirit of criticism embodied by de Man seems to threaten the institutionalization of criticism itself" (5, 11).

26De Man argues, in "The Rhetoric of Temporality," that, in actuality, allegory never was completely abandoned and only comes to be subordinated by the subsequent act of critics invested in the Romantic ideologies of textuality and authority that were in part a result of their own creations: "For the lucidity of the pre-romantic writers does not persist. It does not take long for a symbolic conception of metaphorical language to establish itself everywhere, despite the ambiguities that persist in aesthetic theory and poetic practice" (208).

27De Man amplifies Gadamer's observations in "The Rhetoric of Temporality, pp. 187-208, in which he writes that the relationship of the symbol is based "on the organic coherence of the synecdoche" whereas the relationship of allegory "is a pure decision of the mind" (192).

28The book itself, whenever possible, provides a woodcut of the martyr's face.

29In a special issue of the electronic journal Surfaces focusing on the impact of the Internet upon scholarship, James J. O'Donnell writes, "We live in an age of media transition not unlike that which ushered in the print culture so familiar to us all. It is instructive to compare the objections raised in those days to print with those raised now to electronic media: the resemblances are eery. Just last week, I had a Marxist literary scholar saying to me words that quite unconsciously and quite faithfully echoed the lament of a 15th century Benedictine abbot for the threatened decay of the medieval scriptorium. For the objections raised in both ages speak not so much to real drawbacks in the new medium as to the threat they pose to the existing social order" (5).

30This phrase comes from Jorges Luis Borges's scathing indictment of allegory in his essay "From Allegories to Novels," in which he writes, "I know that at one time the allegorical art was considered quite charming (the labyrinthine Roman de la Rose, which survives in two hundred manuscripts, consists of twenty-four thousand verses) and is now intolerable. We feel that, besides being intolerable, it is stupid and frivolous" (155-56).

Contents | Introduction | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Conclusion | References

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