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Chivalry and Romance in the Eighteenth Century: Richard Hurd and the Disenchantment of the 'Faerie Queene'

Haugen, Kristine Louise (2000) Chivalry and Romance in the Eighteenth Century: Richard Hurd and the Disenchantment of the 'Faerie Queene'. Prose Studies, 23 (2). pp. 45-60. ISSN 0144-0357. doi:10.1080/01440350008586704.

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[Introduction]. In the middle years of the eighteenth century, Richard Hurd decided that the whole previous history of literary criticism was a chronicle of obsessions with non-problems. It was in his search for an actual problem that Hurd hit upon the Middle Ages. The result, Hurd's Letters on Chivalry and Romance of 1762, has long been a primary exhibit in the story of how the eighteenth century rediscovered medieval literature and culture. In this set of essays, Hurd canvasses what he takes to be the central characteristics of medieval courtly life, then discusses several postmedieval epic poems and their relationship to this medieval ("gothic") world. In his remarks on Ariosto, Tasso, Milton, and above all Spenser- whose Faerie Queene stands at the theoretical core of the argument - Hurd elaborates a new, "gothic" poetics supposed to be based in the conditions of medieval culture itself, and which Hurd contends is better suited to these poems than Aristotelian ("classical") poetics with its demand for a particular kind of narrative unity. Hurd is also diffuse on the virtues of the "gothic idea of poetry" in its own right, particularly on the pleasing effects of fairies and other elements of "superstition." which he considers aesthetically superior, qua superstition, to the anthropomorphic gods in Homer (48-55). In short, says Hurd, the gothic style affords an ideally wide scope to the poetic imagination and is "peculiarly suited to the views of a genius"; if Spenser and his fellow poets were "seduced" by the gothic "barbarities of their forefathers," theirs was a fortunate fall (4).

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Additional Information:c2000 Taylor & Francis. Published online: 16 Jul 2008. I am very grateful to Thomas P. Roche, Jr., Hans Aarsleff, Anthony Grafton, Jonathan Lamb, and Richard Serjeantson for their comments on earlier versions of this article.
Issue or Number:2
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ID Code:55355
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Deposited On:02 Mar 2015 18:15
Last Modified:10 Nov 2021 20:45

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