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ENL 3230
British Literature 1616-1780


Class 2

    Aug 31: Post #1 Due - Group B


    Reading Assignment for 8/31- 9/14:

      NAEL volume B, The Early Seventeenth Century 1603-1660 (1235-1259)
      NAEL volume B, Literary Terminology (A41-A62)

      NAEL volume B, John Donne (1260-1263) and esp. "The Flea" (1263), "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning" (1275), "The Ecstasy" (1276), "I am a Little World Made Cunningly" (1295)
      NAEL volume B, Katherine Philips (1690-1695), and esp. "Upon the Double Murder of King Charles" (1691), "To Mrs. M. A. at Parting" (1693), "On the Death of My First and Dearest Child" (1695)
      NAEL Volume B, Andrew Marvell (1695-1697), and esp. "A Dialogue Between the Soul and Body" (1681), "To His Coy Mistress" (1703), "The Garden" (1710)

      Jonathan Sawday, The Body Emblazoned Chapter 1 and 2 (see Blackboard Course Documents)

      History Timeline: Prelude, Civil Wars and Interregnum


    Class Objectives:

  • Introduce John Donne
  • Discuss metaphor
  • Begin working on Paper 1
  • Begin understanding early 17th-century concerns

    The readings listed above will be the subject of our discussion for the next two weeks. You may use some discretion in spacing out the readings, but you will be responsible for all of them. For Thursday, I would like to focus on the introduction to the early 17th century in the NAEL vol. B, the literary terminology in the appendix to the NAEL, and the poetry of John Donne. Please read the headnote to the author as well. For class, be prepared to discuss Donne's "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning," (1275)

    One of the poetic traits that unifies the works I have selected is the use of elaborate and difficult metaphors, or conceits, a characteristic sometimes connected with the "metaphysical" style of poetry. While the term "metaphysical" has limited value, we will be exploring the texture and complex meanings created by this type of metaphor in these poems.

    It is also significant that these prominent 17th-century poets did not choose to circulate their poems in print. Rather each developed a coterie audience for their works in handwriting. The development of a print culture is one of the most significant changes taking place in the seventeenth century, and the decision to publish in manuscript carried important implications that we will discuss.


    Notes and Discussion Questions:

    1. General Notes on Reading Poetry

    For those of you new to poetry, please take some time to learn the art of reading poetry. It is different from prose, and there are certain stages in reading poetry that you need to move through in order to appreciate it. For more information on reading poetry, please refer either to the "Poetic Forms and Literary Terminology" in the back of the NAEL (pp. A41-A62) or see the Holman and Harmon Handbook, or another poetic handbook, such as Perrine's Sound and Sense: An Introduction to Poetry 11th edition.

    The first thing you should strive for is an understanding of the poem on the denotative level, that is, what the poem says. (This may be difficult for the poems for today, because they seem to challenge sense by suggesting strange and elaborate comparisons.) You should be able to summarize what the poem is about and to paraphrase the lines.

    The second level of meaning arises when we examine the use of figurative language, sound and other types of poetic technique. You should be able to understand what the poem suggests -- or its connotation. This becomes easier as we discuss the poems in class.

    Finally, ALWAYS read the poems more than once. At least once read the poem aloud.

    Perrine offers (pp. 27-31) some important questions to address when we read a poem. These are questions to which we will return again and again for every poem. Let's get used to answering them:

  • Who is the speaker?
  • What is the occasion?
  • What is the central purpose of the poem?
  • By what means is that purpose achieved?

    *********************

    2. Donne: "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning"

    As with each of the poems, attempt to paraphrase each stanza. What is being said in the first stanza? What is being said in the second?

    After you paraphrase the poem (Or try to; it is difficult), attempt to answer the questions: who is the speaker? What is the occasion?

    These questions relate directly to the title of the poem. What is a "Valediction"? who is saying it and why?

    What is the central purpose of the poem? How do you know? By what means does the poem achieve this purpose? What are its dominant characteristics?

    HINT: Focus on the images Donne uses to convey his sense of love for his partner. What images does he use and what connotations do they convey? Are they appropriate images for the purpose of the poem? Is this a love poem or an astronomy / geometry lesson?

    Discussion question: Based on your background reading in the history and culture of the time, what seventeenth-century concerns are apparent in this poem? Could it have been written at earlier time? At a later time?

    Discussion question: How does this poem compare with "The Flea"? With The Holy Sonnets? What similarities can you find?

    Discussion question: Based on the information in the author headnote, why might Donne choose to publish his poetry (such as this one) in manuscript as opposed to print?

    *********************


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