Kissing by the book : carnal knowledge and bookish metaphor in the works of John Donne ; and, The pen, the sword, and the prison key : Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and eighteenth-century suicide discourse

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Elizabeth R. Currin (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Christopher Hodgkins

Abstract: "John Donne, England's premier seventeenth-century metaphysical poet, has long intrigued scholars with the inclusion of elements both sacred and profane in much of his oeuvre. The following essay explores Donne's use of reading and writing in sexual--but nonetheless holy--contexts, primarily in his poetry, but also in his Devotions upon Emergent Occasions. An analysis of these bodily-textual metaphors, in addition to a comparison with similar work by Donne's contemporaries, reveals a distinct trajectory in Donne's work over time. Brazenly rakish in youth, the aging poet returns his pen to the authorial hand of God, a move that signifies not only Donne's growth as an individual but also his talent for metaphorical flexibility. In eighteenth-century England, male poets and scholars alike debated the prevalence, relevance, and ethics of suicide. The following essay attempts to place Lady Mary Wortley Montagu in conversation with her contemporaries, drawing primarily upon her 1736 verses on self-murder, "Address'd To--." Recurring elements of self-destruction and voluntary death in Montagu's work and life indicate her desire to be a part of this critical discourse. Because she did not take her own life--an event which surely would have broadcast her position--it remains for scholars to revisit Montagu's works in light of other eighteenth-century suicide tracts in order to recover her message. Doing so reveals Montagu's ability to surpass the logic of her male contemporaries by demonstrating that suicide can be a rational act of individual liberty, independent of any higher power."--Abstract from author supplied metadata.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2007
John Donne, England, seventeenth-century, metaphysical, poet, sacred, profane, holy--contexts, poetry, Devotions, Emergent Occasions
Donne, John,--1572-1631--Criticism and interpretation
Desire in literature
Suicide in literature
Montagu, Mary Wortley,-- Lady,--1689-1762
Women authors, English--18th century

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