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Customer Review

on 11 April 2003
The Faerie Queene is, to my mind, the finest single work of literature in English. It's a huge, encyclopaedia poem that draws in and represents the whole psychological landcape of a highly-educated early modern individual with an extraordinarily fertile imagination. Its allegory tries to incorporate everything - from major cultural structures like the seven deadly sins and the myth of British descent from the Trojans to contemporary political intrigues and theories on the workings of the human mind and body. The poem goes from the heights of religious exultation to brutal representations of colonial power and imperial violence.
No review here is going to do it justice; I've read it several times and written about it a fair bit, but still can't imagine really feeling on top of it. Not everyone will like its dreamlike atmosphere and its frequently slow pace. Even the biggest fan will probably admit that long stretches of it are pretty tedious, particularly in the later stages. But the neglect it's fallen into is unforgiveable. Far too many undergraduates never get made to study the thing, and probably many who don't study literature at university won't ever try it. They should. There's nothing else like it and on its own ground nothing else can come close. In terms of density and richness of meaning, and of sheer proliferation of stories, it's an amazing work of genius that puts Spenser up there with Dante, Shakespeare and the rest of the world's very best writers. It's long and you need to put in a fair bit of effort, but it's worth it.
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