Washington People: Joseph Loewenstein

Many modern copies of Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, Book I, Canto IVinclude the phrase “glitter and light” when describing the beauty of Queen Lucifera. But is that the phrase Spenser intended to depict the self-proclaimed monarch?

This is one of many questions that Joseph Loewenstein, PhD, professor of English in Arts & Sciences, tackles as an editor of a new Oxford Edition of the Collected Works of Edmund Spenser.

Spenser’s epic poem The Faerie Queene, published toward the end of the 16th century, tells the story of Prince Arthur’s quest for Gloriana, a fairy queen modeled on Queen Elizabeth I. The poem is set in the time of Arthur, so Spenser used deliberately antiquated phrasing — sometimes confusing his printers, who, in some editions, may have taken it upon themselves to correct a perceived error.

“Since Spenser self-consciously imitates medieval English verbal forms, we have to stop and ask whether he wrote ‘glitter and light’ or ‘glitterand light’ — for ‘glitterand’ is a rare form that can mean ‘glittering,’ ” Loewenstein says.

With the help of both graduate and undergraduate students in the Humanities Digital Workshop and tools developed by its staff, different editions of Spenser’s works are examined for variations in the text. Any discrepancies — such as “glitterand” and “glitter and” — then are analyzed by the students and Spenser scholars, such as Loewenstein, to determine which version is likely closest to Spenser’s true intent. 

Read more at The Source. 

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