John Donne's Articulations of the Feminine

Synopsis

This book is a historical and theoretical study of some of John Donne's less frequently discussed poetry and prose; it interrogates various trends that have dominated Donne criticism, such as the widely divergent views about his attitudes towards women, the focus on the Songs and Sonets to the exclusion of his other works, and the tendency to separate discussions of his poetry and prose. On a broader scale, it joins a small but growing number of feminist re-readings of Donne's works. Using the cultural criticism of French feminist philosopher Luce Irigaray, Meakin explores works throughout Donne's career, from his earliest verse letters to sermons preached while Divinity Reader at Lincoln's Inn and Dean of St. Paul's in London. Donne's articulations of four feminine figures in particular are examined: the Muse, Sappho, Eve as `the mother of mankind', and a young girl who lived and died in Donne's own time, Elizabeth Drury. Meakin's reading of Donne's self-described `masculine perswasive force' asserting itself upon the `incomprehensibleness' of the feminine suggests that the Donne canon needs to be reassessed as even richer and more complex than previously asserted, and that his reputation as a supreme Renaissance poet - revived at the beginning of this century - needs to be carried into the next.