He Sings the Body Electrum: Re-membering Elizabeth Drury
[T]he identity of the human female is unknown or has become unknown. ( Luce Irigaray)
[T]he body itself balks account. ( Walt Whitman)
The epitaph, elegy, and Anniversaries which Donne wrote on the occasion of Elizabeth Drury's death constitute a body of texts which, when read together, map out the problematics of writing and reading the female body for Donne. In the first section of this chapter I will offer a possible strategy for tackling Donne's difficult poems, the Anniversaries. A close reading of over a thousand lines of poetry is impossible to carry out in the space of a single chapter, although I will focus on many smaller portions of the text which have been built around and upon the dead body of Elizabeth Drury. My aim is more to show the potential for a close reading of the poems when we view them as carrying out a textual sexualization of Elizabeth, beginning with her epitaph and ending with The Second Anniversary. The second section of this chapter consists of a reading of Elizabeth's epitaph, a return to the grave site, as it were, which offers a fitting reminder of what lies at the centre of Donne Anniversaries: the present absence of the feminine.
Recent criticism of Donne Anniversaries indicates that the