Plato Baptized places a variety of Spenser?s texts in the
history of speaking, writing, reading, and interpreting which
stretches from Plato?s mentors, Pythagoras and Socrates, to the
present. Expansive and formidable in its complexity of argument,
yet constantly lucid, the book presents its own perceptive readings
of Spenser and his literary forebears as instances of
?participatory mimesis ? a process Elizabeth Bieman identifies as
central in the tradition of biblicized Platonism and Neoplatonism
which informed Spenser?s habits of thinking.
The first five chapters offer a diachronic thread through the
maze of ancient texts, philosophical and biblical, which Spenser
assimilated synchronically, and from which he drew the paradigms of
image and language that represented for older readers evidences of
his Christian humanist ?faith.? The later chapters explore
Spenser?s ever-equivocal metaphoric language, through fictions that
represent all levels of the human souk, cross-connecting and
unifying the world of intertextualized living.
The book?s thread offers occasional egress from maze and void.
Tracing the evidences of questioning and doubt now fully familiar,
along with those of faith, Bieman shows skepticism and affirmation
ceding place to each other continually, unsettlingly, creatively,
throughout tradition. The elements that academic analysis and
skeptical questioning put asunder come together in the rhythmic
process of questioning, aporia, and the occasional flash of
understanding that the Elizabethan theologian knew as metaphoric
baptism. The process, for Spenser, ends neither in despair nor
complacency; in the canon, indeed, it does not end.
Bieman argues that from experiences of personal knowing ? which
the mimetic languages of ancient philosophy, and biblical and
Renaissance story cannot fully capture, but to, and through, which
they torturously lead ? the writer, his fictive protagonists, the
reader and the interpreter participate in the production of further
experiences throughout which other meanings may, evanescently, be