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“A Lecture, Love, in Loves Philosophy”: Donne’s Illuminating Anatomizations

  • Michael A. Winkelman
Chapter
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Part of the Cognitive Studies in Literature and Performance book series (CSLP)

Abstract

Who reads love poetry, and why? These are not entirely idle questions. Conventionally, writers of amorous verse have had two main motives. The first is to sweet-talk a choice ingénue into fooling around: “One would move Love by rithmes” (Sat2, 17; e.g., Flea, ElBed). The other is to relieve the one-sided longing of a for-lorn individual, a venerable custom Donne plays with in “The triple Foole” (see chapter 8). Reading it, however, can be cathartic too, as it rehearses familiar emotional states in apposite terms. Mindful of this, one tack common among the fourteenth-century founders of the Renaissance lyric tradition was explicitly to address their works to interpretive communities already versed, as the saying goes, in what the scrittori were striving to say. Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio all seek to preach to the choir in this way. Dante’s first sonnet in La Vita Nuova salutes other romantics “in our Lord’s name, which is Love” (Salute in lor signor, cioè Amore).1 Likewise, Petrarch commences his monumental, confessional Rime sparse by defining a compassionate yet battle-hardened target audience: “Where there is anyone who understands love through experience, I hope to find pity, not only pardon” (ove sia chi per prova intenda amore / spero trovar pietà, non che perdono, Rime sparse 1, 7–8).

Keywords

Cognitive Approach Romantic Love Amorous Writing Interpretive Community Human Leukocyte Antigen System 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Dante, La Vita Nuova, trans. Dante Gabriel Rosetti, in Lyric Poetry of the Italian Renaissance, ed. L. R. Lind and Thomas Bergin (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1954).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Giovanni Boccaccio, Il Filostrato, ed. Vincenzo Pernicone, trans. and intro. Robert P. apRoberts and Anna Bruni Seldis, Garland Library of Medieval Literature, vol. 53, series A (New York and London: Garland, 1986).Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    David Lodge, Small World: An Academic Romance (New York: Warner Books, 1984), 110–11. Cf. Gabriel Conroy in “The Dead” by James Joyce: “He thought of how she who lay beside him had locked in her heart for so many years that image of her lover’s eyes when he had told her that he did not wish to live. Generous tears filled Gabriel’s eyes. He had never felt like that himself towards any woman but he knew that such a feeling must be love.” The Portable James Joyce, ed. Harry Levin (New York: Viking, 1947), 241.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    Helen Fisher, Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love (New York: Holt, 2004), 124.Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    For transcultural background, see William Tyler Olcott, Myths of the Sun (Sun Lore of All Ages): A Collection of Myths and Legends Concerning the Sun and Its Worship (New York: Capricorn Books, 1967).Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    Ovid’s Amores, trans. Guy Lee (New York: Viking Press, 1969), and The Complete Works of Christopher Marlowe, ed. Fredson Bowers, 2 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973). Marlowe’s English translation was published as Ovid’s Elegies, originally part of Epigrammes and elegies by J. D. [Sir John Davies] and C. M., circa 1590. “Davyes Epigrams, with Marlowes Elegys” were recalled by the Stationers in 1599 to be burned during the government crackdown on satire. “Elegy” here means elegaic couplets, the hexameter plus pentameter of Latin love poetry.Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    The Rape of the Lock, I.13, in Poetry and Prose of Alexander Pope, ed. Aubrey Williams (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1969).Google Scholar
  8. 12.
    Catherine Belsey, Desire: Love Stories in Western Culture (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994), 141–42. See also Anthony Low, “Donne and the Reinvention of Love,” ELR 20 (1990): 465–86, later part of The Reinvention of Love: Poetry, Politics and Culture from Sidney to Milton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993). For a short essay alert to the contradictions and tensions within this aube, see Meg Lota Brown, “Absorbing Difference in Donne’s Malediction Forbidding Morning,” JDJ 20 (2001): 289–92. N.b. there have been many biographical readings of both “The Sunne Rising” and “The Canonization” in light of Donne’s maudit personal circumstances— his sexile and bitter exclusion from the busy world of gentlemanly courtiership.Google Scholar
  9. 13.
    Gavin Alexander, ed., Sidney’s The Defence of Poesy and Selected Renaissance Literary Criticism (London: Penguin, 2004), 16.Google Scholar
  10. 14.
    George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1980), 18.Google Scholar
  11. 15.
    Wilbur Sanders, John Donne’s Poetry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971), 23.Google Scholar
  12. 16.
    Dale Purves et al., Neuroscience (Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, 1997), 550.Google Scholar
  13. 17.
    See Michael Gazzaniga, The Mind’s Past (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 1988).Google Scholar
  14. 20.
    Sir Walter Ralegh, “The Lie,” 44, in Richard Sylvester, ed., English Sixteenth-Century Verse: An Anthology (New York and London: Norton, 1984).Google Scholar
  15. 21.
    Patrick Colm Hogan, Cognitive Science, Literature, and the Arts: A Guide for Humanists (New York and London: Routledge: 2003), 87–114.Google Scholar
  16. 22.
    Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy, ed. Holbrook Jackson, Everyman’s Library 886, 3 vols. (London: Dent / New York: Dutton, 1932), Pt. 3, sec. 2, mem. 2, subs. 1; vol. 3, p. 58.Google Scholar
  17. 23.
    Marjorie Hope Nicolson, The Breaking of the Circle: Studies in the Effect of the “New Science” upon Seventeenth-Century Poetry, rev. ed. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1962).Google Scholar
  18. 25.
    Susan A. Greenfield, The Human Brain: A Guided Tour (New York: Basic Books, 1997), 122.Google Scholar
  19. 26.
    R. V. Young, “Love, Poetry, and John Donne in the Love Poetry of John Donne,” Renascence: Essays on Values in Literature 52 (2000): 251. He follows Sir Herbert Grierson in his appreciation and quotes Martin D’Arcy.Google Scholar
  20. 28.
    In a sermon, Donne asserts that “All love which is placed upon lower things, admits satiety; but this love of this pureness, always grows, always proceeds” (Sermons, I.iii, 199), while in “Loves infinitenesse,” he states: “Yet I would not have all yet, / Hee that hath all can have no more, / And since my love doth every day admit / New growth, thou shouldst have new rewards in store” (23–26). See also Joseph Grennen, “Donne on the Growth and Infiniteness of Love,” JDJ 2 (1984): 131–39.Google Scholar
  21. 31.
    David Buss, “The Evolution of Love,” in The New Psychology of Love, ed. Robert Sternberg and Karin Weis (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2006), 71, 82.Google Scholar
  22. 32.
    F. Gonzalez-Crussi, On the Nature of Things Erotic (New York: Vintage Books, 1988), 7. In some important ways, this tension extends back at least as far as the challenge posed by science to the faith-based Christian worldview during Donne’s lifetime; Darwinian evolution would later deal a fatal blow to attempts to rationally believe Scriptural literalism.Google Scholar
  23. 33.
    The leukocyte antigen system is, of course, also known as the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). It has been found that individual human’s distinctive smells relate to genes involved in the immune system, and that MHC variety between parents correlates with healthier offspring. To a degree as yet undetermined, we prefer lovers who smell right to us; however, women taking birth-control pills don’t have this capability, and sometimes find they lose romantic interest in their men when they go off the pill so as to try and conceive. See Sheril Kirshenbaum, The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us (New York and Boston: Grand Central Publishing, 2011), 103–20 (and sources cited therein).Google Scholar

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© Michael A. Winkelman 2013

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