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date: 06 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The creation of an authorial ‘persona’ is arguably the principal means by which a poet negotiates his own ‘canonicity’, engaging in a dialogue with posterity through the contemporary reader. It involves not just the textual ‘I’ of the poetic speaker, but the paratextual ‘I’ of the dedicator, commentator, and explicator. This article argues that Spenser's various personae are sophisticated rhetorical devices designed to appropriate the readerly ‘you’ into an appreciative ‘we’. Daniel's 1594 reference to ‘our Spencer’ testifies to the success of the endeavour, but Spenser was equally well equipped to make aesthetic capital out of apparent rejection. To adopt such an approach to self-presentation is to restore it to the rhetorical category of ‘ethos’ or characterization, and particularly to the art of persuasion through characterization. It is to recognize in the illusion of a professedly confessional or lyrical mode an ongoing process of adjustment to the ever-changing demands of genre, circumstance, and audience.

Keywords: authorial persona, poets, canonicity, rhetoric, self-representation

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