A Feministic Reading Of Donnes Poetry English Literature Essay

To analyze seventeenth century literature, one can barely overlook John Donne and to read done literature, one can non ignore his love sonnets through which Donne ‘s position of love and how he viewed the adult females of his clip, as the object of this love, can be scrutinized absolutely.

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However, one facet remains changeless ; Donne seldom lingers over the adult female ‘s physical visual aspect, and leaves the reader to presume that the adult female in Donne ‘s verse form is a shady figure, the object or contemplation of male desire, or a sex object to be circulated for the exhilaration and amusement of Donne ‘s male groups.

Beauty was merely a thing that happened by opportunity and is accordingly, as Donne concludes, of no existent worth. Not merely was beauty of no existent worth, but neither were the females themselves.

These ideals were set forth chiefly by mediaeval and early-modern Christians, who found several justifications for adult females ‘s lower status in the narratives of Genesis and the New Testament ; 1 ) adult female was created after adult male, and hence adult male must be more perfect ; 2 ) Eve ‘s function in the autumn suggests pride, that she was governed by passions, and that adult females ‘s beauty and gender made them possible corrupters of adult male ; 3 ) adult females were clearly expected to be subservient to their hubbies ; and 4 ) as the ‘weaker vas, ‘ adult females possessed non merely less physical, but less mental strength than work forces. Though there were so many statements against the female sex, the female physical ( non needfully sexual ) organic structure and psyche was held in the highest respect, particularly the abovementioned thought of the female as “ vas. ”

John Donne expanded this thought in his poesy, composing about adult females in a manner that degraded their physical organic structure, their mental and emotional capablenesss, and their relation to the male sex. Women, in John Donne ‘s eyes were seen as a necessary portion of the male-female, body-soul connexion but were unsafe every bit good. Womans, in the 16th and 17th centuries were believed to transport merely every bit much truth – and secrecy – as work forces. Womans were vass that could be filled ( with anything ) ; this capacity non merely made adult females appealing, but made them unbelievable agents of any force, good or bad.

The relationship between organic structure and psyche, a relationship Donne regarded as one of common necessity, was the specifying bond of his life. His experiences ( of friendly relationship, love, wellness, unwellness, work, leisure ) were all conditioned by the interactions between the two parts of the ego. As a poet and a curate, the physical and the religious, the male and the female, the layman and the Godhead were inexorably linked for Donne, and were ever carried into his poesy.

To obtain farther grounds of how Donne, every bit good as his talkers, views the female organic structure, one must look closely at his poesy ; for illustration, Donne ‘s verse form “ Air and Angels. ” This verse form addresses the struggle of Love within the spirit and the organic structure. The verse form begins: “ Twice or thrice had I loved thee, / Before I knew thy face or name ; / So in a voice, so in a shapeless fire ” ( 1-3 )

In another verse form, “ The Extasie, ” Donne states that “ Our soules, ( which to progress their province, / ere gone out, ) hung ‘twixt her, and mee./ And whil’st our soules negotiate at that place, / Wee like sepulchral statues ballad ” ( 15-18 ) . Asserting this anterior belief that souls/spirits can go forth the organic structure to mix with other psyches, Donne carries this belief to the lines in “ Air and Angels. ” Possibly how he ‘met ‘ his lover, their psyches negociating far from their physical organic structures, Donne ‘s talker in “ Air and Angels ” believes his spirit met his lover ‘s spirit ( a voice or shapeless fire ) while their organic structures lay elsewhere. Despite the talker ‘s declaration that the female was disembodied and “ shapeless, ” and merely as psyches are required to take a organic structure, the talker needs to concentrate upon the human signifier ( as simply an empty outline/container ) in order to make full it with whatever he chooses, in this instance his love. The female lover addressed is the concrete incarnation required to finish this relationship.

The talker describes the determination of the physical being and their first meeting in the 5th line: “ Still when, to where 1000 wert, I came, / Some lovely glorious nil did I see ” ( 5-6 ) . When the talker came ( physically ) to where his female lover was, a “ glorious nil ” did he see. This interesting line becomes a sexual wordplay sing the female genital organ. If we look back at Galenic theories of foetal development, ( Galen, a outstanding Roman doctor, philosopher, and accomplished medical research worker ) we find that 2nd century doctors believed that the female was an inferior version of the male. Despite multiple grounds for this, one ground was universally accepted ; the female was an “ undercooked ” male for the parts that are indoors in adult female are outside in man.The outgrowth of the phallus in male foetuss was an look of “ doneness ” in foetal development. Since the vagina remained inside the female foetus, Galen and co-workers understood this to intend the female foetus was non “ done. ” Therefore, the female genital organ were nil, a “ glorious nil, ” and an interestingly present absence.

As a consequence, the talker supposes that he must make full that empty infinite, that absence, within this lover ‘s organic structure. He utters, “ Since my psyche, whose kid, love is/ Takes limbs of flesh and else could nil make ” ( 7-8 ) . Because the kid of the psyche is Love, Love needs a corporeal organic structure ; a place. Love must take a organic structure, so the talker asks Love to “ presume thy organic structure, I allow, / And repair itself in thy lip, oculus, and forehead ” ( 12-14 ) . Her organic structure is the container for Love, and the talker must come to acknowledge and love her physically.

Other footings throughout the verse form that suggest her organic structure is simply a container are “ ballast ” and “ tender ” ( a little boat ) as in: “ Whilst therefore to ballast love I thought, / And so more steadily to hold gone, / With wares which would drop esteem, / I saw I had love ‘s tender overfraught ” ( 15-18 ) . In the verse form, Donne expresses that the talker ‘s love is excessively much for the female ; that he invades her and “ love ‘s tender is overfraught ” ( 18 ) . What should hold been a stabilising weight ( Love ) was emotionally unwieldy for the bantam vas. The talker had intended to stabilise love ‘s boat with wares which would drop an undistinguished ship of mere esteem, but alternatively had overloaded even Love ‘s ship ( a more powerful abstraction than mere esteem ) , unbalancing the really Love which he meant to maintain safe. The concrete and physical specifics were excessively overpowering for human love, which can non inhere ( be portion of something natural and built-in ) in discorporate liquors. Here, Donne reasserts his passionate belief that one can be neither merely affair nor merely spirit ; one must capture both. Therefore, neither can Love happen its permanency in “ nil, ” nor in the appendage or glare of passion or beauty as the talker states, “ For, nor in nil, nor in things/ Extreme, and dispersing bright, can love inhere ” ( 21 ) ( Nutt 24 ) . In the concluding lines: “ Merely such disparity/ As is ‘twixt air ‘s and angel ‘s pureness, / ‘Twixt adult females ‘s love, and work forces ‘s, will of all time be ” ( 26-28 ) , Donne stresses the Elizabethan sentiment that there will everlastingly be a duality between a adult male and a adult female ‘s love. A adult female ‘s is more fugitive and sacred, yet harder to capture and more widely sought after, hence, less “ bodily ” and more “ spirit-like. ” These factors besides make her love less stable. A delicate balance is required to non merely maintain Love afloat, but to non overburden it every bit good ; even the most carefully placed, but lopsided ballast can easy tip the tender of Love.

In “ Air and Angels, ” the female organic structure is highly misunderstood, and described as a mere container for Love to busy. Although look up toing adult female for her ownership of a sacred and widely sought-after Love, the full verse form relies upon the female signifier and the fact that it is uninhabited and can easy be filled with a assortment of things. The transforming regard of the witness, need non be constrained by an being outside the organic structure. In imaginativeness at any rate, it might be possible to sail into the organic structure which could therefore look as a topographic point of infinite infinite, a topographic point with infinite possibilities ( 140 ) . Sadly, this filling is non done of her ain will, but of the male talker ‘s ; she must digest his use and idealistic position of love, and addition nil in return save an overfraught tender. And in Donne ‘s verse forms, we seldom hear the female voice, or learn of Love from the female position.

In the bulk of Donne ‘s verse forms, the talker is male, and the audience is preponderantly male. John Donne was a clique poet, significance that he wrote to a choice group of close friends, most likely poets themselves. Writing in an epoch where a female was deemed a lesser being than a male, Donne was entirely following the conventions used by other coterie poets by composing misogynous Hagiographas about adult females from a hypermasculine point-of-view. And though he seldom wrote about Love itself, he did compose about Love in the sense that it was an abstract male-female connexion.

Work cited

The Norton Anthology of English Literature Volume one, Sixth edition.

Abjadian, A. A study of English Literature. Tehran ; 2006.