John Donne's Articulations of the Feminine

By H. L. Meakin | Go to book overview

3
'The Mother in the Hungry Grave': Marriage, Murder, and the Maternal

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

( Genesis 2: 24)

The whole of our western culture is based upon the murder of the mother.

( Luce Irigaray)


I. INTRODUCTION

From a startling if ultimately ambiguous poem which shows Donne at his most 'original', we move to texts which reveal Donne at his most conservative. This chapter explores Donne's articulation of the maternal feminine or 'woman-for-man' in some of his writings on marriage. I will consider Donne's answers to the questions, 'Why was woman made?' (in the first place), and 'How is woman made?' (within the ritual of consummation on the wedding night). My texts are Donne's references in his sermons to the marriage 'model' in Genesis (Gen.) 2: 24 and his wedding sermon on Gen. 2: 18, the verse which begins the story of Eve's creation: 'And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.'1 I will then offer a close reading of Donne's 'Epithalamium [Made at Lincoln's Inn]'. How does Donne construct the feminine in his interpretation of the creation of the first woman, Eve, 'Mother of all Living', and in his representation of the subsequent

____________________
1
Unless otherwise indicated, scripture quotations are taken from the King James Authorized Version ( 1611), hereafter cited as (AV).

-139-

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