Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Donne's "Holy Sonnets"

Hello, all! In class, we'll be discussing some items from "Songs and Sonnets" and "Holy Sonnets." In the case of the latter, I already know what I want to talk about, so start thinking about the following in advance.

(1) First of all, what, according to you, is the central issue or question being struggled with in Donne's Holy Sonnets? Is this struggle strictly religious/spiritual?

Towards the end of the class session I will elicit from you some broad, final comments on Donne's poetry. For example:

(2) In what ways is Donne's voice and imagination singular? That is, what does he seem to be doing that other writers aren't?

(3) On the other hand, in what ways is Donne very much of his time and part of his culture?

(4) Finally, what does Donne teach us about the relationship between religion and eroticism or imagination and faith?

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Jonson: "Inviting a Friend to Supper" and "To Penshurst"

 Sir Philip Sidney at Penshurst (miniature by Isaac Oliver)

I realize that some of you won't see this before we meet for class. That's fine--hopefully some of you will. I really just want to get some thoughts down. As I re-read these two wonderful poems, I'm struck by the fact that they seem to have some core attributes, some essential imaginative and functional qualities, in common with the epistolary epigrams that were also among your assigned reading in the anthology.

At the same time, there are important differences between these two poems and the epigrams. For example, there seems to me to be some conceptual keywords that are significant in "Inviting a Friend to Supper" and "To Penshurst" which we don't encounter in the epigrams. These include "place," "hospitality," "environment," "practice," and "nature/culture." You may be thinking of others, too--if so, I'd love to hear about them. At any rate, mull this over.

One more thing. In each of these poems, the last line contains a single word that strikes me as difficult, multifaceted, and very consequential to the poem overall. Here they are:

"Inviting a Friend to Supper": "liberty"

"To Penshurst": "dwells"

Let's make sure we talk about those words at some on Wednesday morning.

Ben Jonson

View The Workes of Benjamin Jonson (London, 1616) on EEBO here.

Also, check out the Cambridge Edition of the Works of Ben Jonson Online here.

The Jacobean Court

 James I, from 1616 "Workes" frontispiece

 James I and Family

 Queen Anna

 Princess Elizabeth and Frederick the Elector Palatine

 Prince Henry

King Charles I