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Sex, Death, and God: English Metaphysical Poetry from Donne to Marvell
ENGL 369
Spring 2017
Section: 01  

This course surveys seventeenth-century English metaphysical poetry, a body of verse known for both its formal experimentation and its transgressive choices and combinations of subject matter. Surveying poetry by the major metaphysicals (Donne, Herbert, Marvell), as well as lyrics by more minor poets, we will examine the central concerns of the metaphysical lyric: sex, death, God, and politics. We'll think about how these authors used poetry to imagine a whole range of bodies and desires, from Crashaw's homoerotic "liquid poetics" to Donne's intertwined desires for profane and divine love to Marvell's imaginative preoccupation with plant bodies and their sexuality. We'll discuss how these poems think about the prospect of death and what comes after, as their authors imagine their future selves as skeletons, as angels, as dust and their poems as tombstones, as wills, as relics. We'll talk about seventeenth-century Christianity, asking how these poems characterize the relationship between the human, organized religion, and the divine, as well as how these poems imagine other religious traditions. Finally, we'll think about politics, asking how and if these famously self-contained, abstract lyrics engaged with contemporary political issues from changes in agricultural labor to New World exploration to the regicide of Charles I.
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: HA ENGL
Course Format: Lecture / DiscussionGrading Mode: Graded
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: None
Past Enrollment Probability: 90% or above

Last Updated on FEB-21-2024
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