Monday, November 23, 2009


So let's start with Donne, 'Good Friday: Riding Westward,' and then continue to think about some of the questions we raised in relationship to Herbert's poetry on agency and aesthetics. That is, what for the Christian is the right conception of the individual? (was Herbert what we would call an individualist?) And, is there an aesthetic appropriate to Christian service?

Let's look at the Jordan poems, the Love poems, A Bunch of Grapes, the Collar, the Pulley - are there any other suggestions for poems that we might focus upon?

As a digressive continuation to our discussion about the hermeneutics of love, I have posted my review of a book of Biblical criticism on our site. It's not yet been published, so please don't circulate.

As always, it's a good idea to continue checking here for further updates.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Anatomy of the World (cont'd) and George Herbert

Following our discussion of last time, we will continue reading Donne's 'The Anatomy of the World.' Is there a relationship between argument and form? How does the structure of the First Anniversary which we outlined last time contribute to the meaning of the poem? Is there a relationship between Donne's conception of the soul - composed of understanding, memory, and will - and the internal structure of the poem? Why does Donne say of Elizabeth that she is both 'Quire' and 'Song'? What - from the 'Anatomy' enacted in the poem - is the role of the poet?

A famous literary critic once said: 'For early modern scientists and philosophers, knowledge was a matter of being apart; for Donne and his contemporaries, knowledge is a question of taking part.' Could such a statement be justified in a reading of Donne's poem? An even more famous psychoanalyst, Jonathan Lear, writes, that the 'conception of objectivity, worked out in seventeenth-century science, assumes that knowledge is available 'from no perspective at all.' This perspective, which Lear calls, 'outside of love' must be 'one of developmental failure.' Can Lear's statement be translated in such a way to be useful to a reading of Donne's poem.

Please make sure that you have a copy of the poem - with line numbers, and sections and sub-sections marked off - for next class. We may look at some selections from the Second Anniversary (which I will provide in class) before moving on to the poetry of George Herbert.

Most of Herbert's poems are available on the luminarium website, here, or on this kind of funky (note Temple model in the background ) site. You can also find them in the Oxford edition of Herbert on the reserve shelf in the library; there are other copies on the library shelves. There is also a pdf file of selected poems on our site (though there are certain advantages to reading from a serious scholarly edition). Ideally, we should read all of Herbert's poems from The Temple; Herbert conceived of his work as a whole - with the parts relating one to the other. But for next class focus on 'The Dedication,' 'The Altar,' 'The Reprisall,' 'Redemption,' 'Easter-wings,' 'Prayer I,' 'The Temper II,' 'Jordan I and II,' 'Church-monuments,' 'The Windows,' 'Deniall,' 'Love I, II, III,' 'Bunch of Grapes,' 'The Elixir,' 'The Collar,' 'The Pulley,' 'A True Hymne.'

Be sure to check here again for further updates or guidance.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Nothing and the Anatomy of the World

For next class, we will be considering Donne's 'Nocturnal on Saint Lucy's Day' (on the selected poems handout from last class) in conjunction with Donne's Sermon 23. Please download from our site, and read the sermon carefully, especially pages 79-81. What does Donne mean in the sermon when he suggests that God is present even in hell? What does mean by 'nothing' in the 'Nocturnal'?

In addition, we will begin a discussion of Donne's First Anniversary poem, 'An anatomy of the world.' The text is also available on the website. Please print out and read carefully. As you read through the poem, try to determine if there is a structure to the poem. Are there different parts to the poem? How would you break the poem - according to line numbers - into parts? If there is an introduction and then five parts following, how do you see them breaking down? Are there parts within parts? Please come to class next time prepared to answer this question.

Watch this space for further questions and guidance.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Time, Cosmos, Microcosm: Browne and Donne

A brief preliminary: after class yesterday, I realized that we need to have a better sense of the historical period. How would we put the following events on a time-line?: birth and death of Donne; birth and death of Shakespeare; birth and death of Milton; accession of Elizabeth to the throne; death of Elizabeth; death of James I; death of Charles I; beginning and end of English Civil Wars; Restoration; Luther's 95 Theses; publication of King James Bible? Are there any other important dates would help give us a better sense of the period?

For the next class, we will be pairing readings of Donne with Thomas Browne in relation to the following headings: 1. Time, 2. Cosmos, and 3. Microcosm. I have collected readings in files on our documents site, 'Donne Poetry Selections' and 'Selected Readings from Browne's Religio Medici'. Please make sure that you read these texts with care (Browne's prose, remember, is like poetry), and have these texts for class.

In conjunction with the selections from Browne on time, please read Holy Sonnet X, Woman's Constancy and Love's Alchemy.

In conjunction with the selection from Browne on the cosmos, please read The Canonization, The Flea, and Holy Sonnet XIV. For this section, we will keep in mind Dr. Johnson's judgement of the poet - as one who 'yoked the most heterogeneous ideas by violence together.' Is Donne inventing connections between the different subjects of his poetry - which Johnson finds only remotely related, or is he discovering 'occult resemblances?' In what ways do Browne and Bacon conceive of nature differently? To what extend does a Brownian conception of nature inform the poetry of Donne?

What does Donne mean in Expostulation 19, when he says that God is a metaphorical God?

In conjunction with the selections from Browne on the microcosm, please go over your readings of Donne's Meditation 4 and 17 (assigned last time), and read The Good Morrowe, The Sun Rising, A Valediction of Weeping, and Good Friday, Riding Westwards.

Please check the site again towards the end of the week for possible further updates.