Destruction: A Renaissance Ideal from Spenser to Dryden

Doctoral Dissertation


From Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene to John Dryden’s Annus Mirabilis, the poets of the English Renaissance idealized destruction. Whether historical or visionary, destruction appeared in various genres, using conventional images. When poets portrayed destruction as comic, they emphasized liberation and celebrated visions of a glorious future. When they portrayed destruction as tragic, they likened it to a hostile attack on human life with the loss of unrecoverable beauty or cultural heritage. Through the metaphor of destruction, poets addressed the problem of social change, attacked opposing ideas, or held up an instructive “mirror” of warning for England. Debates about destruction’s role in the Reformation continued throughout the period. Spenser’s Faerie Queene makes destruction a discovery, a way of acquiring knowledge by visual means. In Spenser’s poem, destruction liberates the oppressed and returns individuals or society to an original state. Dryden’s Annus Mirabilis considers providential destruction’s role in breaking with the past and redefining the nation’s idea of itself.


Attribute NameValues
Author James Cotton
Contributor Margaret A. Doody, Research Director
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Literature
Degree Name Doctor of Philosophy
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Defense Date
  • 2019-06-25

Submission Date 2019-07-08
Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

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