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ENL 3230
British Literature 1616-1780

January 24: Class 2

    Readings on Bb, course docs:

    On Bb, course docs: Katherine Philips "Upon the Double Murder of King Charles" (1691), and "To Mrs. M. A. at Parting" (1693)
    Andrew Marvell "The Garden" (1710)
    Post 1 Group A -- Response 1 Group B

    Class Objectives:

  • Finish review of history film on Civil War, interregnum and Restoration
  • Workshop Donne's poem "Valediction: Forbidding Mourning"
  • Discuss Philips' and Marvell's poems
  • introduce metaphor, parts of a metaphor, paradox

    Notes and Discussion Questions:

    As we begin to discuss the literature of the seventeenth century, I ask that you take time to learn how to read poetry thoroughly. We will be discussing much of the following in class, but there will not be time for all of it. A good deal of the learning you do for this class will take place outside of class. These notes and discussion questions should guide you.

    One of the poetic traits that unifies these works 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.

    The poems for today describe people in places. Both Donne's and Phillips' describe parting from someone, which suggests travel. Consider how you part with a loved one. What sorts of things do you say to the loved one? What promises do you make? How does this change with a different person? With a different place? Marvell's poem is about a special place, a retreat. Do you have a retreat that you go to when you need to be alone? What does your retreat look like? If you were to write a poem or an essay about your special place, what details would be important to include?

    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. A44-A60) or see 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: How does the poem represent travel in the world? What about travel frightens the person to whom the speaker addresses the poem? What do you say to someone you love before you go on a long, possibly dangerous, trip?


    2. Philip's "To Mrs. M. A. at Parting"

    After answering the same set of questions for this poem (what does it say? Who is the speaker? What is the occasion? What is the purpose? How does it achieve the purpose?) note the central paradox of the poem: that although the friends part they are still together. In what ways does the poem represent this unity despite separation?

    What role does hyperbole play in the final stanza? What is the effect?

    Discussion question: How does this valediction compare with Donne's "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning"?

    Discussion question: What does the poem suggest about female friendship? Why is this an appropriate subject for poetry?


    3. Marvell's "The Garden"

    After answering the same set of questions for this poem (what does it say? who is the speaker? What is the occasion? What is the purpose? How does it achieve its purpose?) note the construction of place in the poem. How does Marvell describe the garden? What does this garden have to do with other famous gardens? Can you think of other important gardens that he might be alluding to? How is it different?

    Discussion question: What is the speaker's attitude toward nature in the poem?

    Discussion question: How does gender affect the representation of or access to the garden?


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