Sound Physic: Phineas Fletcher's the Purple Island and the Poetry of Purgation

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Abstract:

For Phineas Fletcher, in his poem The Purple Island or The Isle of Man (1633), reading the anatomy in the right way is to be able to read the world geographically, historically, politically and spiritually, for each of these other narratives is in correspondence with the body, which demonstrates its utility in elucidating specifically Protestant ideas. The poem employs directly medical discourses of anatomy, and represents a shift from the language of poetry shaping science to that of science shaping poetry. Fletcher's arrangement of poetic text surrounded by scientific descriptive marginalia asserts the poem's primacy in revealing the truth of the body. The bodily processes of purging and purification represent humanity's history, and particularly contemporary British history, and the poem represents a strong desire to prevent spiritual disease both at home and abroad, thus sitting uncomfortably with the actual direction of Stuart politics.

Keywords: Anatomy; England; Fletcher, Phineas (The Purple Island); Poetry; Politics; Science

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1477-4658.00105

Publication date: September 1, 1991

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