Beyond the Allegorical Veil: Spenser with W.E.B. DuBois

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Abstract

This essay explores what it means to read Spenserian allegory in the company of W. E. B. Du Bois, and especially his description in The Souls of Black Folk (1903) of living as a Black man in early twentieth-century America behind a “Veil” of cultivated prejudice. Du Bois’s rhetorical mode is frequently allegorical, in ways that resonate with Spenser’s Faerie Queene and raise crucial questions: When does allegory conceal or make endurable what it shouldn’t? And when does it reveal to us truths we must confront about ourselves? I suggest that for Du Bois—and, in very different ways, for Spenser—allegory points to the disproportionate burden that an exploitative capitalist system places on certain racialized groups. But while the two writers offer veiled—and not-so-veiled—critiques of this system, Spenser is careless of the racial implications of his allegory, implications that Du Bois describes—and lives through—in Souls.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)393-411
Number of pages19
JournalSpenser Studies
Volume37
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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