Conference Report: The Place of Spenser/Spenser’s Places

Between the 18th and 20th June over 160 scholars from all over the world flocked to the medieval and early modern heartland of Dublin to attend the fifth International Spenser Society conference, organized by Dr Jane Grogan (UCD), Dr Thomas Herron (East Carolina University), and Dr Andrew King (UCC). The main body of the conference took place in the surroundings of Dublin Castle, while four of the panels took place in beautiful Marsh’s Library. The first two plenaries showcased more of Dublin’s eloquent venues, taking place in the Royal Irish Academy and Smock Alley Theatre respectively. Over the three days, attendees listened to a wide range of round-table focus panels and open-topic paper sessions; these panels were diverse in nature, but were also interconnected in attempting to explore Edmund Spenser’s interest in spaces and places, both imaginative and real. Topics discussed in the open-topic paper sessions covered a wide range of topics, including the reception of Edmund Spenser, Spenser’s Cities, Spenser and Chaucer, Digital Spenser, and Spenser and the Sea. Various panels, at the same time, focused in detail on specific texts, including the Ruins of Rome, The Mutabilitie Cantos, Book VI of the Faerie Queene and The View of the Present State of Ireland.  The focus panels then attempted to question the broader picture in more detail, looking at the issues surrounding how to teach and edit Spenser, his style, and questions surrounding biography.


Due to the conference’s location, the organisers took the opportunity to artfully weave an Irish strand through the proceedings, focusing on the tricky question: what is Spenser’s place in Ireland? There were open-topic paper sessions that focused on Spenser in seventeenth-century Ireland, the sources and contexts that Spenser drew on for The View, and Spenser’s place in Irish writing, while there was also a focus panel dedicated specifically to Spenser and Ireland. This Irish theme also arose in papers given in other panels, most notably the Digital Spenser Panel, in which Dr Thomas Herron presented his audience with a digital reconstruction of Kilcolman Castle, which anyone can take a tour of on the Centering Spenser website ( The pinnacle of this Irish strand occurred during the Thursday evening session at the Royal Irish Academy, when Dr Marc Caball gave a paper entitled ‘Culture in Early Modern Gaelic Ireland’. In his paper, he looked at Spenser’s Irish language contemporaries, and suggested that Spenser may have been jealous of the bards due to their influence on Irish society. Dr Caball’s paper was given in conjunction with an excellent special exhibition featuring both printed texts and manuscripts from Ireland and Europe, including treasures such as the Book of Fermoy and the first Irish-language printing, the Tiomna Nua. ‘Another View: Gaelic manuscript culture in Edmund Spenser’s Ireland’, is open to the public until 7 August 2015 (

This session was followed by the first plenary, a paper by Prof Anne Fogarty, which also drew on this underlying Irish theme. In her excellent talk, entitled ‘“The rivering waters of, hitherandthithering waters of”: Topography and the Rhetoric of Rivers in Spenser and Joyce’, Fogarty highlighted how Joyce drew on, and experimented with Spenser’s language, how Joyce played with language to forge a connection with Spenser, and how Joyce, like Spenser, teaches one how to read his work. The second plenary paper was given by Prof Helen Cooper, and in her paper she amplified and enriched the places and character of Spenser’s pastoral, across a range of Spenser’s work, arguing that there is more to the pastoral than The Shepheardes Calender. In the final plenary paper, Prof Jeff Dolven gave a paper entitled ‘Besides Good and Evil’ in which he illustrated The Faerie Queene’s limits, and ultimately the poem’s failures, as an agent of moral instruction. He demonstrated this by looking at what happens when “good” characters do “evil” things, and more importantly what happens when “evil” characters show compassion when no “good” character is there to influence them.

Overall, from the engaging opening remarks by Minister Jan O’Sullivan, Prof Orla Feely, and Prof Graham Hammill to the thought-provoking disputation by Prof Andrew Hadfield and Dr Julian Lethbridge this conference celebrated the work currently being done on Edmund Spenser, but also suggested several potential possibilities as to where Spenser studies may go in the future. However, whether one agreed with Hadfield’s and Lethbridge’s disputation or not, one thing is for certain; this excellent conference was the beginning of a new wave of material that will be published on Spenser, material I very much look forward to reading.


While the official proceedings finished on Saturday 20th June, the conclusion of the conference did not take place in Dublin, but somewhere more fitting. On the morning of Sunday June 21st the majority of the attendees boarded two buses bound for Munster, and took in sites such as Cahir Castle, and Tynte’s Castle and the Boyle Monument in Youghal. However, while both of these sites are stunning in their own right, they were only stops on the way to and from what can only be described as a pilgrimage to the ruins of Kilcolman Castle. It was here, at the site of Spenser’s home in Ireland, that one could truly understand the meaning behind the theme of the conference. From people walking through the ruins imagining Spenser writing, to those surveying the surrounding landscape looking for the Ballyhoura mountains, the Bregog and even ‘Arlo Hill’, everyone was captivated and enthralled by being in the place that had such an impact on Spenser’s work. It was here that the conference drew to a close, as it was at this moment that people could truly comprehend the importance of looking at Spenser’s places, especially his place in Ireland.


-Reported by Evan Bourke, PhD Candidate, NUI Galway.

Waterford Medieval Festival

Waterford Medieval Festival

Celebrating the 800th anniversary of King John’s Charter to Waterford on the 3rd July 1215


Friday 3rd  –  Saturday 4th July

Medieval Fair

Cathedral Square

€5 per adult and all children are FREE!

Friday 3 July                         10 am – 5 pm

Saturday 4 July                    10 am – 5 pm


FREE public lecture by Eamonn McEneaney, Director of Waterford Treasures Museums

‘King John, Magna Carta and the Waterford Charter of 1215’

Medieval Museum

Friday 3 July                         7.30pm

FREE of charge

FREE guided walk of King John’s Waterford with Eamonn McEneaney

Saturday 4 July


Why not bring your lunch and enjoy it in the Bishop’s Palace Garden where the tour begins

FREE of charge


Live Stream: Complete Works: Table Top Shakespeare (25 June – 4 July)

 Experimental theatre company Forced Entertainment have announced details of their next live stream event, Complete Works: Table Top Shakespeare. 

One by one, over nine days at the Foreign Affairs Festival, Berlin, Forced Entertainment performers will create condensed versions of Shakespeare’s complete canon, comically and intimately retelling all 36 plays using a collection of everyday unextraordinary objects as stand-ins for characters, staged on a one metre tabletop. Each play will be live streamed via; four plays every evening, from 25 June through to 4 July.

Complete Works: Table Top Shakespeare will explore the dynamic force of narrative in a simple and idiosyncratic summary of Shakespeare’s comedies, tragedies, histories and late plays, creating worlds as vivid as they are strange.

More information can be found at 

Throughout the streams, audiences are invited to comment and interact using the hashtag #completeworks. The company can be found on Twitter @ForcedEnts



Please note all times listed here are in GMT 

25 Jun:

Coriolanus 4pm | Loves Labours Lost 5pm | King John 7pm | Macbeth 8pm  

26 Jun:

Pericles 5pm | Richard II 6pm | All’s Well That Ends Well 7pm | King Lear 8pm

27 Jun:

Much Ado About Nothing 5pm | Henry IV pt 1 6pm | Merry Wives of Windsor 7pm | Antony & Cleopatra 8pm

28 Jun:

Taming of the Shrew 5pm | Henry IV part 2 6pm | Measure for Measure 7pm | Hamlet 8pm

29 Jun:

No plays

30 Jun:

Julius Caesar 5pm | Henry V 6pm | Comedy of Errors 7pm | Troilus and Cressida 8pm

01 Jul:

Twelfth Night 5pm | Henry VI part 1 6pm | The Merchant of Venice 7pm | Titus Andronicus 8pm

02 Jul:

Timon of Athens 5pm | Henry VI part 2 6pm | Two Gentlemen of Verona 7pm | Romeo and Juliet 8pm

03 Jul:

Cymbeline 5pm | Henry VI part 3 6pm | A Midsummer Night’s Dream 7pm | The Winter’s Tale 8pm  

04 Jul:

Othello 5pm | As You Like It 6pm | Richard III 7pm | The Tempest 8pm

PhD scholarship and two Early Modern posts in the National University of Ireland Galway

Applications are invited for 3 positions as part of the ERC-funded project ‘The Reception and Circulation of Early Modern Women’s Writing, 1550-1700 (RECIRC)’, led by Prof. Marie-Louise Coolahan, Principal Investigator (English, National University of Ireland Galway):

Closing date for applications for the Postdoctoral Researcher and Research Assistant posts is 5th June 2015.

Closing date for applications for the PhD Scholarship is 8th June 2015.