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As I understand it, this book results from years of scholarship; certainly it's the most detailed edition of the Amoretti and Epithalamion that I've found. Larsen has a clear editorial "take" on Spenser's sonnet cycle (which includes the 89 Amoretti and the 24 stanzas of the Epithalamion). He joins the many historicist Renaissance scholars who argue that one cannot understand Renaissance literature fully without taking its religious and political context into account. In particular, Spenser, like most of Elizabeth I's subjects, was steeped the the new Protestant religion begun by the queen's father and brother in the middle of the 16th century, and this religion, in turn, found its life in the 1559 Book of Common Prayer. Building on the work of Alexander Dunlop and others, Larson pays particular attention to the resonances between the Amoretti and the lessons and psalms specified for particular days of the year in the Prayer Book. Most critics agree that almost all of Spenser's 89 Amoretti correspond to specific days in the calendar year 1594. Larsen supports this theory by noting many connections between specific sonnets and the Prayer Book readings which correspond to those sonnets' presumed dates. His introduction (some 60 pages) offers an especially helpful discussion of how Spenser may have read and used the Prayer Book and various English translations of the Bible. Larsen also notes Spenser's numerous classical and Petrarchan sources. My only complaint here is that in his notes Larsen will often quote a source in the original language without providing a translation. Over all, though, Larsen's notes are extensive and provocative without shutting down further inquiry or discussion. I'd recommend this work to anyone who's doing a serious investigation of the Amoretti and Epithalamion.
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