Discuss the body in early 17th century -- Sawday's Chapter 1
For class today we will continue our focus on metaphor in John Donne's poem, "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning" and
we will discuss Sawday's chapter one. We will pursue the question raised by Sawday: at what point does the modern Western sense
of interiority "that mark of individuality" emerge? (11) I hope we can look briefly at some of Donne's other poems that explore the
relationship between body and soul, such as "Air and Angels" (1270), "Love's Alchemy" (1272) and "the Ecstasy" (1276)
Notes and Discussion Questions:
1. Concluding "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning"
We will pursue our question -- how does Donne's poem achieve its purpose? We have established that the poem's purpose is to bid
farewell to a loved one and to give her reasons for having faith in their love while the speaker is gone.
For your posts, you may choose to analyze one of Donne's elaborate metaphors in stanzas 3-9. What is the vehicle? what is the tenor?
What is the relationship between the two? What does the relationship suggest in the poem? How does it help achieve the poem's purpose?
Also, we will return to the three discussion questions from Thursday:
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?
2. Sawday, "Chapter One"
Primarily, I am interested in hearing your response to Sawday's chapter. He establishes several important themes in this chapter that he follows
throughout his book. We can examine a few of them.
What is the Medusa myth and how does it help explain the taboo on seeing into the interior of the body?
What is "anatomy" and how does it reflect the literary and philosophical culture he describes? Who or what gets anatomized?
In what sense might a reader from Donne's culture have a different understanding of the "body" from our understanding of the body? How would
you describe the relationship between your body and mind? How might Donne's original readers?
What surprising or confusing things did you read in Sawday that might require further discussion?
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