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John Donne and the Oblique Course

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Any reading of Donne's poetry which takes no account of the New Science present throughout the text is a limited one; the poet's inventiveness lies not in the wilful obscurity so often attributed to him, but in his technique of drawing classical and early modern science into poetry whose focal point is a single and concrete object. Each new element of progress is seen as an improved translation of earlier concepts. This essay examines this alliance of poetry and technology by showing the relevance of a technical issue in Donne's Sermons and poems, and by suggesting specific parallels between cartographic and poetic representation in ‘A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning’. This celebration of the spiral path is like the loxodrome (or Mercatorian map projection) itself, but the scientific input gives the poem force and coherence.

Keywords: Cartography; Donne, John (Sermons, A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning); England; Poetry; Science

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1477-4658.00132

Publication date: June 1, 1993

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