By Siobhán Collins
During the 20th century and because, critics have predominantly provided a adverse evaluate of John Donne's Metempsychosis. against this, drawing on and contributing to fresh scholarly paintings at the heritage of the physique and on sexuality within the medieval and early sleek sessions, Siobhan Collins right here situates Metempsychosis as a ludic textual content alert to and imbricated with the Elizabethan fascination with the techniques and homes of transformation. This examine locations the poem's somatic representations of vegetation, beasts and people in the context of early smooth normal philosophy and clinical, political and non secular discourses of the interval. It bargains a far-reaching exploration of ways Metempsychosis articulates philosophical inquiries which are relevant to early sleek notions of self-identity and ethical responsibility, reminiscent of: the human ability for autonomy; where of the human within the 'great chain of being'; the connection among cognition and embodiment, reminiscence and selfhood; and the concept that of ask yourself as a especially human phenomenon.Donne's Metempsychosis phases the oft-violent techniques of swap concerned not only within the author's own lifestyles but in addition within the highbrow, spiritual and political surroundings of his time. Collins re-evaluates Metempsychosis as a excessive aspect of Donne's poetic canon, utilizing this genre-defying verse as a springboard to give a contribution considerably to our figuring out of early smooth matters over the character and borders of human id and the proposal of selfhood as mutable and in technique. She contests the pervasive view that the paintings is incomplete, and illustrates how Metempsychosis is thematically associated with Donne's different paintings via its obstacle with the connection among physique and soul, and with transformation.
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Extra info for Bodies, Politics and Transformations: John Donne's Metempsychosis
Anthony Raspa (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1987) 99. 40 Donne’s preoccupation with the metaphysical conceit challenges the increasing polarity between subject and object, word and body. Paradoxically, the sexual act, which Donne associates with the fall into knowledge, is also the symbolic means by which the poet reunites subject and object. He contracts “the whole worlds soule” (“The Canonization” 40) into his microcosm in a selfconscious attempt to negate the otherness of the world by taking possession of it: “She’is all States, and all Princes, I, / Nothing else is” (“The Sunne Rising” 21–2).
While this is pertinent given Donne’s authorial preoccupation with dissemination, his phrase “Infinitati Sacrum”, particularly in its juxtaposition with the title description “Poema Satyricon”, is more playful and more serious than this explanation allows. The term “Satyricon” deliberately plays on the false etymological linking of satire with the late-Latin term satyricus or saturicus in the early Renaissance. Donne’s punning “Satyricon” links satire with the lascivious woodland satyr. 5 Hermetic philosophy is concerned with spiritual transformation through the descent and/or ascent of the soul in its various embodiments.
Donne’s use of “Sacrum” in his dedicatory heading also contains a pun that conflates into one the “high” and the “low”, the sacred and the profane. In religious discourse “Sacrum” refers to a sacrifice, a dedication to God; in medical discourse it refers to the Os Sacrum, or “sacred bone”, in other words 7 See Anne A. Davenport, “The Catholics, the Cathars, and the Concept of Infinity in the Thirteenth Century,” Isis 88. 2 (1997): 263–95. 8 Lyndy Abraham, “Square and Circle”, A Dictionary of Alchemical Imagery (Cambridge: Cambridge: UP, 1998) 189–90.
Bodies, Politics and Transformations: John Donne's Metempsychosis by Siobhán Collins