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Scholarly Horizons: University of Minnesota, Morris Undergraduate Journal

Abstract

In Book Five of The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spenser has no qualms about killing giants, who appear at multiple points in the text. Spenser has his narrator explicitly call three foes giants: the Egalitarian “Gyant,” (V.ii.30.1), Geryoneo (V.xi.9.5), and Grantorto (V.xii.15.2). Other giants weave through the text, and all perish--though their deaths signal more than simple defeat in combat. Previous scholarly examinations have linked giants to classical and biblical usurpers of both God and the State. Yet giants are also, as I show, uniquely connected to Ireland. Because of this connection, I argue that the giants of Book Five are representatives of Irish land and lore. Thus, their continual defeat throughout Book Five, building up to the protagonist Artegall’s final battle with Grantorto, encompasses not just military loss and death but also the destruction of a historic national identity and the subjugation of distinctly Irish land--though that subjugation is not fully achieved in the end. To make this argument, I provide an overview of how giants are associated with classical, biblical, and political usurpers. Then, I solidify the connections between giants and the mythic ancestral Irish as well as between giants and Irish land. Finally, I return to Book Five, examining in particular Artegall’s fight with Grantorto, to illuminate the colonial undertones present whenever anyone in this poem fights a giant.

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