This study explores how romance opens the texts of two sixteenth-century authors. The first is the autobiography, Libro de la vida, of Spanish nun, mystic, and reformer, Santa Teresa de Jésus. Amidst the narrative of her life and her instructions on how to better live the mystical life, Teresa uses the mode of romance to construct herself and God in complicated and often conflicting roles: she the wandering (sinning) knight-errant who quests towards the ideal lady, Christ; she the walled garden into which her lover enters for fleeting moments of bliss; she the passive feminine recipient of God's forceful loves; she her own black knight, her own dark forest, through which she must fight to reach the throne of the Beloved. Reading Teresa in this light underscores the ways in which she deconstructs the sublimating, transcending, and bodiless love historically directed towards the God of the Western tradition to reveal a love fraught with mutability and painful separation. As God absents himself from her, mourning assails her and causes her to wish for death, the only bower that promises perfect proximity. In this conflicted realm of mortality in which she longs for death but must continue to live, Teresa moves past her desire into a space for faith. In the second text, Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene, Spenser uses the capaciousness of the romance genre to express his desires for certain political, economical, and spiritual ends by constructing the Faerie Queene as a representative of Elizabeth I who in turn represents the potential for the realization of these hoped for ideals. The study focuses on one particular interchange between the Faerie Queene and the culturally-loaded icon of Arthur, and how Spenser imbues this moment with ambiguity, both posturing Arthur as the Queene's lover and her progenitor. The magical space of romance thus allows Spenser to simultaneously criticize, encourage, and praise Elizabeth, despite the inevitability that she will disappoint him. Despite disappointment, Spenser continues to strive for the temporal perfection of England, which ultimately leads him to an unyielding hope for the perfection of the immutable kingdom of heaven.



College and Department

Humanities; Humanities, Classics, and Comparative Literature



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Santa Teresa, St. Teresa, Teresa de Jesus, Libro de la Vida, Romance, desire, Edmund Spenser, Elizabeth I, The Faerie Queene, Colin Clout Comes Home Again