Donne’s Masculine Persuasive Force

  • Helen Carr
Part of the Insights book series

Abstract

This evocation of John Donne as romantic ideal in Angela Carter’s The Magic Toyshop struck an immediate chord when I read it. It was just how he was regarded in my grammar school, though perhaps our Leavisite teacher saw to it that we didn’t formulate it in quite that way. ‘How all the young girls loved John Donne’, Melanie thinks. It’s not entirely clear whether she means the young girls in Donne’s poems or in her school. Carter’s prose suggests the ambiguity is in Melanie’s mind, mirroring the (other) school-girls’ passionate identification with those girls addressed within the poems. Melanie’s is just the kind of naïve, onastic reading that our teachers and lecturers warned us against. Besides, she’s a fictional character who constantly transforms all the books she reads into imaginative sustenance from her erotic self-discovery. Yet all the same, her response to John Donne and his aliases is worth thinking about. Angela Carter has astutely captured something quite significant about the persona — or rather personae — that Donne created in his love poetry. Their range of attitudes and feelings — impatience, desire, mastery, energy, tenderness — together suggest something very recognisable still as ideally ‘masculine’.

Keywords

Depression Europe Coherence Assure Beach 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    Angela Carter, The Magic Toyshop (London: Virago, 1981) p. 193.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Quotations from, in order of appearance: A. J. Smith (ed.), John Donne: The Critical Heritage (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1975) p. 204; ibid., p. 271;Google Scholar
  3. Raoul Granqvist, The Reputation of John Donne, 1779–1867, in Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, Studia Anglistici Upsaliensia, 24 (Uppsala, 1975) p. 161; Smith, Donne: The Critical Heritage, p. 304; Granqvist, The Reputation of Donne, p. 161.Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    Andy Metcalf and Martin Humphries, The Sexuality of Men (London: Pluto, 1985);Google Scholar
  5. Jeremy Weeks, Masculinity (Chichester: Ellis Harland, 1986);Google Scholar
  6. Klaus Theweleit, Male Fantasies (Oxford: Polity Press, 1987). There are also a number of papers on masculinity in Sexual Difference, a special issue of Oxford Literary Review, 8 (1986).Google Scholar
  7. 4.
    Michael Foucault, The History of Sexuality, vol. I (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1979)Google Scholar
  8. Michael Foucault, Madness and Civilisation (London: Tavistock, 1967);Google Scholar
  9. Victor Seidler, ‘Reason, Desire and Masculine Sexuality’ and Pat Caplan, Introduction, in Caplan (ed.), The Cultural Construction of Gender (London: Tavistock, 1987);Google Scholar
  10. Lawrence Stone, The Family, Sex and Marriage, 1500–1800 (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1977).Google Scholar
  11. For a feminist historian’s view, see Sheila Rowbotham, Women, Resistance and Revolution (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972) pp. 25–6.Google Scholar
  12. For further discussion of the association of women and nature in the eighteenth century see L. J. Jordanova, ‘Natural Facts: a Historical Perspective on Science and Sexuality’, in Carol P. MacCormack and Marilyn Strathern (eds), Nature, Culture and Gender (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980)Google Scholar
  13. L. J. Jordanova, ‘Naturalising the Family: Literature and the Bio-Medical Sciences in the Late Eighteenth Century’, in L. J. Jordanova (ed.), Languages of Nature (London: Free Association Books, 1986).Google Scholar
  14. 5.
    Linda Woodbridge, Women in the English Renaissance: Literature and the Nature of Womankind, 1540–1620 (Brighton: Harvester, 1984) p. 181.Google Scholar
  15. 6.
    Juliet Dusinberre, Shakespeare and the Nature of Women (London: Macmillan, 1975).Google Scholar
  16. Those who argue against her include Kathleen McLuskie, ‘The Patriarchal Bard’, in Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield (eds), Political Shakespeare: New Essays in Cultural Materialism (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1985);Google Scholar
  17. Lisa Jardine, Still Harping on Daughters: Women and Drama in the Elizabethan and Jacobean Period (Brighton: Harvester, 1983);Google Scholar
  18. Jonathan Dollimore, Radical Tragedy: Religion, Ideology and Power in the Drama of Shakespeare and his Contemporaries (London: Methuen, 1984).Google Scholar
  19. 10.
    For example, Donald Guss, ‘Donne’s Petrarchism’ (1965), in John R. Roberts (ed.), Essential Articles for the Study of John Donne (Brighton: Harvester, 1975).Google Scholar
  20. 11.
    J. W. Lever, The Elizabethan Love Lyric (1956), University Paperback edn (London: Methuen, 1966).Google Scholar
  21. 12.
    For other views of the sexual politics of courtly love see Lilian S. Robinson, ‘Women under Capitalism: the Renaissance Lady’, in her book Sex, Class and Culture (London: Methuen, 1986)Google Scholar
  22. Meg Bogin, The Women Troubadours: An Introduction to the Women Poets of Twelfth-Century Provence (New York: Norton, 1980).Google Scholar
  23. 14.
    All page references for the poems are to John Donne: The Complete Poems, ed. A. J. Smith (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973).Google Scholar
  24. 15.
    The line ‘Go tell court-huntsmen, that the King will ride’ dates this as a Jacobean poem: see for example Helen Gardner, in her edition of The Elegies and Songs and Sonnets (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965) p. 201, which says of this line, ‘As Professor Praz was the first to point out, this is clearly a topical jest at King James’s passion for hunting which, to his attendants’ disgust, involved early rising.’Google Scholar
  25. The position of the alienated Jacobean intellectual is discussed in Mark H. Curtis, ‘The Alienated Intellectuals of Early Stuart England’, in Trevor Aston (ed.), Crisis in Europe 1560–1660 (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1965);Google Scholar
  26. David Aers and Gunter Kress, ‘Darke Texts Need Notes: Versions of the Self in Donne’s Verse Epistles’, Literature and History, 8 (1978); and Dollimore, Radical Tragedy.Google Scholar
  27. 16.
    William Zunder has commented on the ‘hierarchical, yet equal’ relationships that Donne creates, in The Poetry of John Donne: Literature and Culture in the Elizabethan and Jacobean Period (Brighton: Harvester, 1982) p. 30. There is also a subtle discussion of the tension between mutuality and masculine egoism in ‘The Good Morrow’ in an article which I found only a few days before completing this essay:Google Scholar
  28. David Aers and Gunther Kress, ‘Vexatious Contraries: a Reading of Donne’s Poetry’, in David Aers, Bob Hodge and Gunther Kress, Literature, Language and Society in England, 1580–1680 (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1981).Google Scholar
  29. 17.
    For a discussion of these allegorical depictions of America see Peter Hulme, ‘Polytrophic Man: Tropes of Sexuality and Mobility in Early Colonial Discourse’, and, of the sexual implications of the language of colonialism, my article ‘Woman/Indian: “the American” and his other’, both in Francis Barker et al. (eds), Europe and its Others, vol. II (Colchester, University of Essex, 1985).Google Scholar
  30. 19.
    Catherine Belsey, The Subject of Tragedy (London: Methuen, 1985) p. 193.Google Scholar
  31. 21.
    John Carey, John Donne: Life, Mind and Art (London: Faber and Faber, 1981).Google Scholar
  32. 22.
    Preface to Miles Coverdale’s translation of The Christion State of Marriage (1543)Google Scholar
  33. William Haller and Malleville Haller, ‘The Puritan Art of Marriage’, Huntington Library Quarterly, 5 (1942) 244–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 29.
    Christopher Hill, The Intellectual Origins of the English Revolution (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965).Google Scholar
  35. 30.
    See C. B. MacPherson, The Political Theory of Possessive Individuality (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962) p. 220: ‘The basic assumptions of possessive individualism — that man is free and human by virtue of his sole proprietorship of his own person, and that human society is essentially a series of market relations — were deeply embedded in the seventeenth century foundations.’Google Scholar
  36. On science and masculinity see Brian Easlea, Fathering the Unthinkable: Masculinity, Science and the Nuclear Arms Race (London: Pluto, 1983).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helen Carr

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations