Delineate the Spiritual: An Examination of Metaphysics in the Works of Donne, Herbert, and Milton
Date of Submission
Academic Programs and Concentrations
Project Advisor 1
Adhaar Noor Desai
This project examines the ways in which spirituality and metaphysicality are conveyed in seventeenth century English poetry. It raises the question that why poets like Milton, Donne, and Herbert choose poetry as a medium to translate the spiritual. Focusing on literary devices such as epic similes, metaphysical conceits and irregular indentations, I will explore how language, which is in itself a material form, manages to portray the abstract and to surmount the reach of human imagination.
The first chapter analyzes the exhaustive efforts Donne makes to sustain the union of body and soul, the spiritual and the material, in “The Songs and Sonnets”. I attend specifically to his extensive use of convoluted metaphysical conceits, in order to understand functions of material object in his poems, which allows the poet to contextualize and circumscribe the spiritual. The second chapter explores how Herbert reconciles his anti-allegorical gestures and compulsion to write in poetic plainness with the materiality of the page, as evidenced in his architectural construction of pattern poems in “The Temple”. The last chapter argues that Milton uses simile as a self-conscious failure to train the reader to be suspicious of the potentially deceptive utterances in “Paradise Lost” and to, paradoxically, access the divine, to “justify the ways of God to men”.
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Chen, Zhuobin, "Delineate the Spiritual: An Examination of Metaphysics in the Works of Donne, Herbert, and Milton" (2018). Senior Projects Spring 2018. 67.
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