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Spenser's Irish Experience is the first sustained critical work to argue that Edmund Spenser's perception and fragmented representation of Ireland shadows the whole narrative of his major work, The Faerie Queene, traditionally regarded as one of the finest achievements of the English Renaissance. The poem has often been read in specifically English contexts but, as Hadfield argues, demands to be read in terms of England's expanding colonial hegemony within the British Isles and the ensuing fear that such national ambition would actually lead to the destruction of England's post-Reformation legacy. Spenser should be seen less as an English writer and more as a new English writer in Ireland, his prose and poetry expressing the hopes and fears of his class. Where A View of the Present State of Ireland attempts to provide a violent political solution to England's Irish problem, The Faerie Queene exposes the apocalyptic fear that there may be no solution at all.
The book contains an analysis of Spenser's life on the Munster plantation, readings of the political rhetoric and antiquarian discourse of A View of the Present State of Ireland, and three chapters which argue the case that the apparently Anglocentric allegory of The Faerie Queene reveals a land gradually-but clearly-transformed into its Irish other. Spenser emerges from this study as a writer whose experience in Ireland rendered him implacably opposed to the vacillations of his English monarch.