"Spenser's Ireland," December 1941: Scripting a Response

17 Aug 2017

With reference to a vinyl record, some unpublished letters, and a series of reading scripts, this essay reconstructs the circumstances of a trip Marianne Moore made to Harvard in December 1941. Her trip to Cambridge followed closely in the wake of Roosevelt’s declaration of war, such that her reading might be considered a fresh response to the shifty rhetoric of foreign policy and to the plight of her imaginary homeland, Eire, in particular. The essay centers on Moore’s rendering of “Spenser’s Ireland,” a lyric whose complex textual condition congealed in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor into a document thick with questions, jotted afterthoughts, and a longing for political intervention. The essay’s broader purpose is to consider Moore’s revisionary habits as a species of vocal improvisation and so to offer a new angle on her emerging responsibilities as a war poet.