Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Comparative Literature


Martin Elsky

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature | Intellectual History | Scholarship of Teaching and Learning


Spenser, philology, North Carolina, literary history, Elizabethan studies, biography


Drawing from recently available archival documents, this paper traces the life, works, and influence of Edwin Greenlaw (1874–1931), a notable scholar of Spenser and the English Renaissance and a beloved and influential teacher. Information from a biographical manuscript authored by his brother is supplemented with contextual history of literary education in turn-of-the-century America and the debates between literary historians and critics of the early twentieth century in order to trace Greenlaw’s model impact as both a practitioner and leader. His exegesis of Spenser’s political allegory, his numerous edited literature textbooks for the general student, and his activism for a more publicly involved university are characteristic of his exemplary career. Letters from his colleagues and students, written after his early death, emphasize Greenlaw’s remarkable and contagious passion for scholarship, a passion which might inform current movements in literary studies as they reconstruct pathways to hermeneutics.