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Donne and his poetry of modernity

Author XiongYi
Tutor ZengYanBing
School Tianjin Normal University
Course Comparative Literature and World Literature
Keywords aesthetic-modernity fracture masquerade intermediacy spatiality tension alienation effect mirror image
Type PhD thesis
Year 2008
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John Donne is a typical metaphysical poet of Britain in the 17th Century. His poems are strange in speculation and picturesque in the use of images like dark memories against a white background, causing emotional rise and fall among the readers. John Donne’s works led the ideological trend of the metaphysical poems and touched upon category of Baroque Art. The study of John Donne’s poems reveals his rebellion against tradition and his pre-consciousness in the embodiment of "evil". In a certain sense, this pre-consciousness is viewed as manifestation of modernity. Whether in Donne’s or in the modern times, Donne’s art is something like an under current that keeps people aware of the construction and deconstruction of their personal beings, of their perspectives and introspection of the times, the demonstration of the modernistic features in both of which are just the hardly noticeable characteristics of Donne’s art.This dissertation attempts to discuss the five modernistic features of "intermediacy", spatiality, tension, alienation effect and mirror image from the aesthetic perspective, aiming to point out that the prevalence of classicism in the 17th Century implies an under current of modernity. This not only enriches the studies of John Donne, but also makes it possible to study the modernity of the 17th Century in an individual case, thus promoting the studies of modernity. Besides, science and poetry are attempted to be unitied in the dissertation in order to show the molecule-like movement of language symbols. For example, the relation between metaphor’s referring and the referred is explained into facial tension with physics theory, modernity is elaborated with Self-Orgnization Theory of science and etc.This dissertation is divided into parts in discussing the modernistic features of John Donne. Part one mainly points out the connection between John Donne and modernity. Chapter One firstly focuses on the definition of modernity and then generalizes the nature of modernity in light of Jameson’s four basic tenets in interpreting modernity, which serves as an unseen thread through out the dissertation. Chapter Two explores the feasibility of associating John Donne with modernity. It reveals how John Donne gives expression to modernity within the scope of poetic metaphors through the medium of language and with the modernistic factors of "distance". Chapter Three illustrates the five conceptions and the superficial forms of modernistic poetics, i.e. the "intermediacy", spatiality, tension, alienation effect and mirror image.Part two expounds the multi-features of Donne’s modernity. In other words, the modernistic features of John Donne’s poems are specifically illustrated from the multi aspects of Donne’s modernity. Chapter Four emphasizes the features of "intermediacy" in Donne’s poems. Due to the chaos of "null distance" in Donne’s cognition, a dynamic movement has been produced between the two poles on a horizontal axis in his texts, which led to the occurrence of subjective and textual "intermediacies". And this is the characteristic of Donne’s intermediateness. In comparison to the poems of different styles, the drop of Donne’s texts is great, which makes the "intermediacy" stronger. Chapter Five is centered on the spatiality of Donne and his poems. It is obvious that with the survival of Donne’s awareness of distance, his cognition of the society gradually diverges from confusion to soberness. He turns his vision to the universe and writes by "smashing the cognition genders" and emphasizing on "illusions", having created a spatial system cross-sectioned by the untraditional horizontal composite axis and the vertical polymerized axis. Such a spatial system has neither a center nor a boundary. Chapter Six empathetically relates and analyses the tension in Donne’s poems. Tension is an important aspect of the superficial feature of modernity. Because of the "heterogeneity" and "remoteness" in the quality of language’s referring and the referred, poems may bring strong mental shocking and visual impact caused by the drop, producing an unusual sense of beauty. Through the analysis of the shifting process of homo-body and metaphoric body, this chapter aims to cultivate the different aspects of the emotions, themes and tension of the time in the texts of Donne’s poems. Chapter Seven discusses the "intermediacy" effects. In Donne’s eyes, the society is a dream land of utopia in which politics, religion, military affairs and culture can reach a "grand reunion". This belief is completely out of tune with main stream society while is beneficial to constructing Idea of harmony. Chapter Eight chiefly reflects the subversion, the expressivity, the magic nature and the post-modernity of Donne’s poems from the different reactions to Donne at different times. Just like the images as reflected in a mirror, they reflect the different aspects of Donne’s modernity.Donne’s modernity has its origins and derivatising conditions in the course of its development. The study of Donne’s modernity lies first in the significance as reflected in Donne himself. This historical work of Donne is strongly metaphorical, and the inspiration of the beauty of "evil" has just indicated the development of the age as well as the difficulties and obstacles in the process of development. Next, the foresightedness in Donne’s poems may find its correspondence in its age, offering reference for probing into the deeper structure of culture. Last, as a historical work, Donne’s poems may also serve as guidance to the modern works; its techniques of collage and intertextuality have become the highly frequent means in literary creation of the industrial and post-industrial societies. John Donne is a poet of the 17th Century and his works have merely presented some modernistic features, but the study of his modernity has deeply come into dynamic description in the sense of aesthetics, which has enriched the studies of the modernity of the 17th Century in general and prompted the development of the researches of modernity as a whole.

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