Caroline Spurgeon
Caroline Frances Eleanor Spurgeon (24 October 1869, India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 – 24 October 1942, Tucson, Arizona
Arizona ; is a state located in the southwestern region of the United States. It is also part of the western United States and the mountain west. The capital and largest city is Phoenix...

) was an English literary critic. She was educated at Cheltenham Ladies' College
Cheltenham Ladies' College
The Cheltenham Ladies' College is an independent boarding and day school for girls aged 11 to 18 in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England.-History:The school was founded in 1853...

, Dresden
Dresden is the capital city of the Free State of Saxony in Germany. It is situated in a valley on the River Elbe, near the Czech border. The Dresden conurbation is part of the Saxon Triangle metropolitan area....

 and at King's College London
King's College London
King's College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and a constituent college of the federal University of London. King's has a claim to being the third oldest university in England, having been founded by King George IV and the Duke of Wellington in 1829, and...

 and University College London
University College London
University College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and the oldest and largest constituent college of the federal University of London...



Caroline Spurgeon is known as the first female University professor in London, the second in England. She was actually the first female professor involved in English literature, and the first fully accepted in England at all. From May 1900 she lectured on English Literature
English literature
English literature is the literature written in the English language, including literature composed in English by writers not necessarily from England; for example, Robert Burns was Scottish, James Joyce was Irish, Joseph Conrad was Polish, Dylan Thomas was Welsh, Edgar Allan Poe was American, J....

 in London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

. She became a member of the staff of Bedford College, London, in 1901. She was an expert on Geoffrey Chaucer
Geoffrey Chaucer
Geoffrey Chaucer , known as the Father of English literature, is widely considered the greatest English poet of the Middle Ages and was the first poet to have been buried in Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey...

 and in 1911 wrote a thesis in Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 on Chaucer devant la critique, and in 1929 in London on 500 years of Chaucer criticism and allusion. In 1936 she settled in Tucson, Arizona
Tucson, Arizona
Tucson is a city in and the county seat of Pima County, Arizona, United States. The city is located 118 miles southeast of Phoenix and 60 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. The 2010 United States Census puts the city's population at 520,116 with a metropolitan area population at 1,020,200...

, where she died, apparently on her 73rd birthday from undisclosed causes.
Spurgeon, Virginia Gildersleeve
Virginia Gildersleeve
Virginia Crocheron Gildersleeve was an American academic, the long-time Dean of Barnard College, and the sole female US delegate to the April 1945 San Francisco United Nations Conference on International Organization, which negotiated the UN Charter and created the United...

, Meta Tuke, Lilian Clapham and others enjoyed interweaving intimate relationships and shared their summers (see - Our Story)

English Studies

Smart networking in the British Federation of University Women and with female counterparts in the more progressive United States helped her gain leadership positions in the restructuring of English studies in Britain (e.g., the English Association
English Association
The English Association is a British association dedicated to furthering the study of English language and literature in schools, higher education institutes and amongst the public in general....

) as well as in the launching of the English literature curriculum at the University of London
University of London
-20th century:Shortly after 6 Burlington Gardens was vacated, the University went through a period of rapid expansion. Bedford College, Royal Holloway and the London School of Economics all joined in 1900, Regent's Park College, which had affiliated in 1841 became an official divinity school of the...

. Through her various professional activities inside her own department, she participated in the academic literary-critical renaissance of the 1920s and early 1930s. She was also an active militant in favour of women’s eligibility to academic degrees. She advocated for more opportunities for foreign women in British Universities. Her own appointment to a chair's position marked a turning point in the history of women's higher education.

Chaucer Reception

Spurgeon's 1911 Paris doctoral dissertation, Chaucer devant la critique en Angleterre et en France depuis son temps jusqu' nos jours, which she published in three volumes in English in 1929, Five Hundred Years of Chaucer Criticism and Allusion, 1357-1900, secured her a lasting place in the history of scholarship on the Middle English
Middle English
Middle English is the stage in the history of the English language during the High and Late Middle Ages, or roughly during the four centuries between the late 11th and the late 15th century....

 author. The study made available to her colleagues the rich tapestry of the reception of the father of English poetry.

Shakespeare's Imagery

In 1935, Spurgeon wrote the pioneer study on the use of image
An image is an artifact, for example a two-dimensional picture, that has a similar appearance to some subject—usually a physical object or a person.-Characteristics:...

s in William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

's Work, called Shakespeare's Imagery, and what it tells us. It has been reprinted several times. In it she analyses the different types of images and motifs that he uses in his plays.

Some examples may here suffice.
  • She finds sea images: e.g. "Sailing in this salt flood; the winds, the sighs ... will overset thy tempest-tossed body" (Romeo and Juliet
    Romeo and Juliet
    Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy written early in the career of playwright William Shakespeare about two young star-crossed lovers whose deaths ultimately unite their feuding families. It was among Shakespeare's most popular archetypal stories of young, teenage lovers.Romeo and Juliet belongs to a...

  • clothing images: e.g. "Why do you dress me in borrowed robes" (Macbeth
    The Tragedy of Macbeth is a play by William Shakespeare about a regicide and its aftermath. It is Shakespeare's shortest tragedy and is believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607...

  • colour images: "this my hand will rather The multitudinous seas incarnadine, Making the green one red." (Macbeth)
  • gardening images: "Hang here like a fruit, my soul, till the tree die." (Cymbeline
    Cymbeline , also known as Cymbeline, King of Britain or The Tragedy of Cymbeline, is a play by William Shakespeare, based on legends concerning the early Celtic British King Cunobelinus. Although listed as a tragedy in the First Folio, modern critics often classify Cymbeline as a romance...

  • and many more.

The study of imagery can, apart from helping to understand the meaning of the play, give some insight into the poet's mind, because it shows what ideas come to his mind when in need of poetic expression, thus giving some clues as to his background, his upbringing, his social position, and so on.

It can also often help to distinguish his style from that of other authors, and thus is a vital instrument in disproving for example the theory that Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Albans, KC was an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, lawyer, jurist, author and pioneer of the scientific method. He served both as Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England...

 may be the author of Shakespeare's plays, since a statistical
Statistics is the study of the collection, organization, analysis, and interpretation of data. It deals with all aspects of this, including the planning of data collection in terms of the design of surveys and experiments....

 comparison between the fields of imagery in both authors shows revealing differences.

External links

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