John Donne and the Metaphysicals
madams (at), Instructor

Course Syllabus, Fall 1997

Handouts Donne and the Metaphysicals Links Individual Authors

English 450 (syllabus)
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Authors we will read

Assignments for this course
Midterm 10%
Final (both objective/ essay) 20%
Research Paper 20%
Research Presentation 10%
Term Paper 25%
Misc Small Writings 15%

Possible research topics:
Jacobean and Caroline Politics
Baroque Art, Architecture, or Music
Gender, literary misogyny, and sexuality
cosmology and science

Readings for Week 1
Friedrich, Carl. "Baroque in Life and Letters."
(We will read the following poems first, doing as many as we can each session)
"The Sun Rising" (62)
"The Canonization" (62)
"The Ecstasy"
"The Flea" (65)
"Valediction: of Weeping" (65)
"The Apparition" (67)
"The Funeral" (68)
"The Blossom" (69)
"Valediction: Forbidding Mourning" (67)
"Nocturnal Upon St. Lucy's Day" (66)
All Elegies (70-72)

Seminar Paper Topics
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A critical approach to a single author, e.g.:
- a feminist reading of Donne, Herbert, or Vaughan, or one of the metaphysicals.
- a new historical reading of any author, such as Herrick, Jonson, or Traherne
- a look at the issues of patronage, hetero- and homoerotic imagery in one poet
- an exploration of paradox in one writer's work
- a reading of one writer's work in terms of contemporary politics (their contemporary, not ours)
- an examination of meditation techniques in one metaphysical poet
- issues of social class in one poet
- An investigation of science images (e.g. cosmology, navigation, medical) in one poet
- An investigation of the political use of masque
- An investigation of one aspect of philosophy or religion in one poet

A comparison of two interesting figures, e.g.
- two metaphysical poets with different backgrounds, such as Herbert and Traherne
- two metaphysical poets with different attitudes toward the body (e.g. Donne and Crashaw)
- a comparison of an English metaphysical poet with an American (e.g. Taylor or Bradstreet, or Michael Wigglesworth)
- a comparison of a male poet with a female (see Kissing the Rod--examples are Aphra Behn and Rachel Speght)
- A comparison of a 17th century religious poet with a 20th century poet, such as T.S. Eliot, Anne Sexton, or Timothy Liu (a Chinese gay mormon poet, just for an extreme)
- A comparison of one poet and one visual or musical artist (presupposes you have some grounding in art history or musical appreciation)

Some More Interesting Books (feminist and political); see also attached bibliography
Taylor, Edward W., 1931-
Donne's Idea of a woman : structure and meaning in Anniversaries / Edward W. Taylor. (Feminist theory)

Klawitter, George, 1942-The enigmatic narrator : the voicing of same-sex love in the poetry of John Donne / 1994. (Patronage/ queer theory)

Barbara Everett:  Poets in their time : essays on English poetry from Donne to
Larkin.1986.  (Historical)

Stimpson, Catharine R. (foreword). Rewriting the Renaissance: Discourse of Sexual Difference in Early Modern Europe. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1986.

Goldberg, JonathanJames I and the Politics of Literature: Jonson, Shakespeare, Donne, and Their 1983.

Goldberg, Jonathan "The Politics of Renaissance Literature: A Review Essay." ELH (ELH), Baltimore, MD. Article in: vol. 49 no. 2, 1982 Summer. 514-542

Fall 1997 Schedule
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Week Starting Topic Reading Notes
1 8/19 Baroque, Donne    
2 8/26 Donne love poems    
3 9/2 Donne sacred poems   9/1 Labor Day
4 9/9 Donne sermons    
5 9/16 Jonson    
6 9/23 Herbert    
7 9/30 
8 10/7 Crashaw   10/9 last day to drop with a W
9 10/14 
10 10/21 Traherne    
11 10/28 Cavaliers--Suckling & Carew    
12 11/4 Cavaliers--Herrick    
13 11/11 Marvell    
14 11/18 Marvell, Women Writers    
15 11/25 Women writers & Americans   11/26-30 Thanksgiving Holiday
16 12/2 Review; SEMINAR PAPER DUE    
17 12/8 Monday, 12:00-2:30   Final Exams
 Reserve Books
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Hill, Christopher. The Century of Revolution, 1603-1714. Edinburgh: T. Nelson, 1962.
 DA375.H5 (extra copy in library)

Beer, Patricia. An introduction to the Metaphysical Poets. Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Littlefield, 1972.

Women and the English Renaissance. By Woodbridge, Linda.
 PR429.W64 W66 1984

Greer, Germaine, et al., eds. Kissing the Rod: An Anthology of 17th Century Women's Verse. NY: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux 1988.

Rivers, Isabel.  Classical and Christian ideas in English Renaissance poetry : a student's guide.  London ; New York : Routledge, 1994.
 PR535.R4 R58 1994

Protestant poetics and the seventeenth-century religious lyric / Barbara Kiefer Lewalski.  Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c1979.
 PR545.R4 L48

John Donne, coterie poet / Arthur F. Marotti. Madison, Wis. : University of Wisconsin Press, 1986.
 PR2248.M28 1986

Summers, Joseph H. George Herbert, his religion and art. Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1954.
 PR3508 .S8 1954a

The heirs of Donne and Jonson [by] Joseph H. Summers. New York, Oxford University Press, 1970.
 PR544 .S9

Henry Vaughan : the unfolding vision / Jonathan F.S. Post. Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c1982.
 PR3744 .P67 1982

Warren, Austin. Richard Crashaw: a study in baroque sensibility. Ann Arbor [Mich.] University of Michigan Press [1957, c1939].
 PR3386.Z5 W1

Religion and the decline of magic / Keith Thomas. New York : Scribner, c1971.
 BR377 .T48 1971b

Harris, Victor. All coherence gone; a study of the seventeenth controversy over disorder and decay in the universe. London, Cass, 1966.
 BT875 .H32 1966

Patronage in the Renaissance / edited by Guy Fitch Lytle and Stephen Orgel. Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c1981.
 CB361 .P27 1981

The godly man in Stuart England : Anglicans, Puritans, and the two Tables, 1620-1670 / J. Sears McGee. New Haven : Yale University Press, 1976.
 BX5075 .M3

Metaphysical Poets and Cavalier Poets
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Main influences:
John Donne, Ben Jonson

- Both rebeled against "pictorial fluidity, decorative rhetorical patterns, and half-medieval idealism"
- Highly experimental forms as opposed to conventional (sonnet) forms


private public
amateur professional
individual general
extravagance sobriety
excess measure
spontaneity deliberation
immediacy distance
daring propriety
roughness elegance
tension balance
agility weight
expression function
ecstasy order
genius craftsman
passion reason
wit judgment
nature art
baroque neoclassical
relativism judgment
Style of the Metaphysicals: Metaphysical Tradition:
George Herbert
Richard Crashaw
Henry Vaughan
Andrew Marvel

Style of Jonson and Cavalier poets

Cavalier Poet Tradition:
Robert Herrick
Thomas Carew
Sir John Suckling

Important Issues for the Renaissance
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Rise of the city-state in Italy
Solidification of aristocratic system; system of patronage

Rise of merchant class and middle class mobility.
Renewed contact with eastern empire (under moslem control) and rediscovery of classical texts
Humanism--new emphasis on the SECULAR (vs. the sacred) seen in literature and art.
Protestant Reformation and religious conflict throughout Europe.
Professionalization of the Theater.
Politics: A Mirror for Magistrates. New interest in the role of kingship.
Nationalism/ Capitalism/ Individualism/ Originality (correspondent values).

Sonnet. Calendar. Lyric. Verse drama (closet drama). Epithalamium.
Pastoral, epic.
Political tracts and literary criticism (Sidney).
Pastoral, urban, tragedy, comedy, tragicomedy, history.

George Herbert (1593-1633)
The Temple 1633

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(sent poems to friend Nicholas Ferrar "to be either published or burnt" (died not knowing which--lifelong conflict of pride in fame vs. self-abnegation; so last act is a compelling expression of incompatibility; poems are always both a record of a true struggle and a testament to pride. Gave up the decision)

"Donne's most original disciple"--Kenner
- distinguished Welsh family; mother a friend of Donne's
- married Jane Danvers 1629, took order in church 1630
- known as "holy Mr. Herbert"--3 year stint, died of consumption
- The Temple published posthumously.
- works w. religious imagery and xian typology
- Donne=poet of religious doubt, strain, anxiety; Herbert=poet of religious faith, of submission, of acceptance (outdated?)
- poet of "inner weather"--Aldous Huxley
- Herbert works out conflicts in poems

Doug Bush

Joseph Summers on Herbert
 Henry Vaughan (1622-1695)
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- doctrine of mystic correspondence (analogical relations between the world of creatures and the world of spirits; Welsh country doctor
- felt a strong tie or kinship w. creatures of nature
- published 2 books, Silex Scintellans or the Fiery Flint (1650)
- Olor Iscanus or The Swan of Usk 1651--titles refer to Welsh ancestry
- Herbert big influence; echoes of The Temple
- Vaughan's twin brother, an alchemical philospher, also big influence
- imagery of light (God, Election, Heaven, life, happiness) and darkness (Devil, damnation, death, misery); Sandbank essay "HV's apology for Darkness"
Robert Ellrod:

Doug Bush Joseph Summers on Vaughan
return to top Symbolism--See Austin Warren's Richard Crashaw: A Study in Baroque Sensibility. Figures: Imagination operates like love--synthesizing power:
Thomas Carew (1595-1640)
Poems 1640
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- Izaak Walton called him "a poet of note and a great libertine in life and talke"
- Clarendon called him "a person of pleasant and facetious wit"
- disciple of Jonson
- did not collect or edit his poems (as Jonson, Lovelace did)
- intelligence, poise, and strength--"taugtly imagined celebrations of pleasurable transience"
- first to combine toughness of metaphysical verse w. polish and elegant lightness of Jonson; Marvell will do this after him
- no high spiritual seriousness--Puritans despised this kind of wit
- clever, amusing, very, very, very obscene
- probably ablest of CAVALIER poets
Douglas Bush:

Joseph Summers on Carew
1.  friend John Hales refused him the sacrament when he died of syphilis at age 45.
2.  like many "cavalier" poets took no active art in civil war.
3.  In Suckling's "session of poets" Carew has no sprezzatura: 4.  Did care about poetry
5.  Elegy on Donne uses Donnian language (his flame "shot such heat and light,/ As burnt our earth, and made our darkness bright,/ Committed holy Rapes upon our Will" and enjambs like Donne, run-on couplets, rough "masculinity"
 a.  Praises Donne for exiling gods and goddesses, but doesn't banish from his own work.
6.  Carew's reply to Jonson's Ode to Himself ("just indignation" about audience)
7.  Clearer understand of BJ and JD than anyone, but also departs--imagery
8.  Says Carew had no "major fire"--refused elegy on Death of King of Sweden in 1632 because while Germans may "bellow for freedom and revenge, the noise/ Concerns nor us, nor should divert our joys"--because we have peace in England and Halcyon days--right before English Civil war!--Summers says tempted fate.
9.  Considers switching to religious verse, to "strive to gain from thence one thorn,/ than all the flourishing wreaths by laureates worn"
10.  wrote most elaborate masque in history: Spaccio de la Bestia Trionfante:  Charles I's courtiers become new constellations--height of courtly masque. Comus the following year--a transformed genre.
Contains "neo-Spenserian rejection of Hedone, or Pleasure" contains admission that the poet knows nothing else:  


"To Ben Jonson" (see BJ's "To Himself")
"A Rapture"

Andrew Marvell (1621-1678)
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First collection published 1681 (by "widow" housekeeper)
- poems are "playful miniatures"--graceful, humours surface
- witty, casual tone--light metrical feel?--exact diction, rhymes ring
- Marvell was assistant to Jon Milton, Latin Secretary to the Commonwealth 1657
- few poems published in his lifetime; known for his satires
- died of overdose of opiates--malpractice
- irony, not the paralyzing kind, is essential to his poems (Summers)
- wrote "An Horation Ode upon Cromwell's Return from Ireland"
- was "vouchsafed the wit, the poise, and the generosity of imagination to inventory and summarize, memorably, in amber language, each of its modes."

Doug Bush

Joan Bennet Joseph Summers on Marvel
Robert Herrick (1591-1674)
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- "The happiest of English poets"
- Son of prosperous London goldsmith
- Ben Jonson was hero; in "His Prayer to BJ" he calls him "Saint Ben"
- Jonson taught Herrick "the art of the polished trifle, the light touch, and the quiet mood"
- slowly found a career, took orders in church, reluctantly moved to Devonshire
- many exotic imaginary mistresses; housekeeper named Prudence
- drinking, socializing, city loving ("His Farewell to Sack" & "Welcome to Sack" again)
- direct easy lines, rather than "ingenuities and "strong lines"
- central theme of happy reconciliation of nature and nature's god, as in Corrinna
- carpe diem poems
- book title, Hesperides, 1648, "connects the poems' strange bright world of girls and flowers with the land of golden apples at the western end of the world" [Kenner}

Doug Bush
- most classical, least metaphysical; "bricklayer [BJ] has given place to the goldsmith's apprentice, the master of filigree"
- content to mirror timeless epicurean Arcadia
- a "daughter" of Ben! "too sensuously and smoothly Elizabethan for an age of 'strong lines'"
- ideal attitude of the cavalier
- Corinna: "variations on the brevity of youth and love express more sentiment than passion"
- volume of 1648 offered "open challenge to the spirit of civil war"
- Argument of his Book: "I sing of brooks, of blossoms, birds, and bowers,/ Of April, May, of June, and July flowers"
- Secular religion, yet argument "sings...Of heaven, and hope to have it AFTER ALL"

Summers on Herrick

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