Algorithmic Spenser - Spenser Review Summer/Fall 2024

deadline for submissions: 
February 9, 2024
full name / name of organization: 
Bethany Dubow, University of Oxford

THE SPENSER REVIEW Summer/Fall 2024 Issue CFP

Contacts: Michael Ullyot,; Bethany Dubow,



The Spenser Review invites submissions for its 2024 Summer/Fall Issue on the subject of ‘Algorithmic Spenser’ – an issue about patterns, procedures, and problem-solving. What premodern precedents are there for modern algorithms of making and interpreting literary texts and worlds?

In Chaucer’s England, ‘algorism’ meant the art of reckoning using the Arabic number system, and became ‘algorithm’ in the seventeenth century – a form which may also suggest arithmos, the Greek word for ‘number’ and its arts. Today, the word ‘algorithm’ means ‘a precisely defined set of mathematical or logical operations for the performance of a particular task’ (OED), and is especially associated with the goal-based functions of computational processes. How might a more capacious definition move past quantitative operations to a writer’s qualitative decisions, and a critic’s qualitative judgements?

The editors are curious about Spenser as a poet who formed and transformed questing formulae, and who worked in enumerative and rule-based modes to solve problems (in metrical, rhetorical and conceptual forms, and in prose as well as in verse). We are equally interested in how scholars of Spenser’s work enact their own unpredictably unfolding, goal-based algorithms of reading and interpretation. We also invite papers on Spenser’s language informing generative algorithms in the age of AI, and which expand algorithmic processes to encompass Spenserian reception, pedagogy, and criticism.

Within this broad framework, specific approaches might consider:

  • algorithms, critical modes and criticism;
  • Spenser’s arts of reckoning or enumeration;
  • quest structures and algorithm;
  • algorithms and imitation;
  • algorithm, uncertainty and incompletion;
  • relations (poetic and critical) between procedural limits, invention and generation;
  • relations between rhetoric and logic, especially when they are precisely defined and goal-oriented; and
  • relations between Spenser’s generative language models and others, including those driven by AI.

We welcome submissions from graduate students and early career academics as well as established scholars. We expect most submissions will be around 3,000 words in their final iterations, but will also consider individual submissions of longer or shorter pieces, or suggestions for a set of shorter pieces by two or more authors.

Abstracts should be submitted to the editors by February 9th and should include: proposed paper title, abstract (150-word maximum), full name, current affiliation, email address and CV.

The deadline for accepted papers will be May 22nd