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Good Dragons are Rare

An Inquiry into Literary Dragons East and West


Edited By Fanfan Chen and Thomas Honegger

Dragons are a universal phenomenon and have fascinated humans since the dawn of time. Yet whereas we have numerous studies into the origins of these fantastic creatures, there have been very few attempts at discussing their appearance, function and development within literary texts. The eighteen essays collected in this volume (8 in French, 6 in German and 4 in English) – written by an international cast of scholars – try to fill this gap by looking at dragons in literature East and West, contemporary and past.


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Spenser’s Dragons 97


Spenser’s Dragons Maik Goth Summary This article deals with the major dragons in Edmund Spenser’s seminal epic romance The Faerie Queene (published 1590 and 1596) both on an anatomical and on a conceptual level. While the paper first treats the only woodcut in the original print, which importantly depicts St George vanquishing a dragon, the main part of this paper is devoted to sustained readings of the major dragons in the poem, and rounded off by treatments of the dragon battles. Spenser’s dragons emerge as boundary-breaking, multifarious creatures, forcing themselves into the heroes’ spaces, and challenging the readers’ interpretation. 1 Introduction 1 Of all the monsters appearing in the margins of medieval manuscripts and in the texts of many tales ancient and modern, the dragon has proved especially mesmerising. 2 As a monster whose frequently hybridised corporeality ranges from a small crocodile to a giant serpent that frequently spews fire, it maintains its position at the heart of the human imagination, while simultaneously defying any attempt at categorisation. 3 The name itself derives from the Old Greek (Latin draco), which is related to the verb , ‘to see, to look at’, 4 a circumstance that hints at the creature’s proverbial vigilance, but also at its fiery eyes. 1 I would like to thank Thomas Honegger for asking me to recycle passages from my recently published paper on Spenser’s monsters for this wonderfully catholic book project on dragons (see Goth 141-84). I am greatly indebted to Åke Bergvall for his generous and...

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