John Donne: Poems

Donne the Cartographer: Mapping, Writing, and Female Agency in “The Good Morrow” and “A Valediction of Weeping”

In her book Maps and Memory in Early Modern England: A Sense of Place, Rhonda Lemke Stanford discusses the importance of maps in early modern English literature. She explores how mapping metaphors are not “merely another trope of description,” but how poets and authors use early modern techniques of mapping to inform the structure of their writing; as a result, she claims that often in early modern writing, “a poet describes the details of the landscape and the architecture as a surveyor might, and a female poet names and describes parts of London as a cartographer would” (14-5). Notably absent from her study, however, is an in-depth review of the work of John Donne, who frequently employs images of maps in his poetry. Stanford groups Donne, along with Shakespeare, as an author who often employs maps as a metaphor for “sexual congress and/or conquest,” and whose poetry maps out “woman as a land or country to be conquered” (140-1, 59). In contrast to this assertion, I argue that Donne in fact uses maps in exactly the way Stanford’s book proposes: rather than acting as stagnant images, the maps in Donne’s poetry are constantly in flux, and the way maps are continually made and un-made serves as a comment on representation and...

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