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Alchemy and the Body/Mind Question in the Work of John Donne

  • Michael OvensEmail author
Chapter
Part of the Studies in the History of Philosophy of Mind book series (SHPM, volume 15)

Abstract

The sheer abundance of alchemical imagery in the works of metaphysical poet John Donne paradoxically masks the extent to which alchemical processes influences his cosmological vision, even in those poems which lack overt images of alembics, elixirs, and balms. Alchemy provides Donne with a vital mediating force between the Neoplatonic and Christian interpretations of the cosmos, delivering a set of metaphors with which he could address his deep-seated uncertainties about the constitution of man. Donne was deeply disturbed by the fundamental instability of man’s identity, how a seemingly consistent whole can persist through time despite the sometimes wholesale alteration of mind and body. In “A Valediction: forbidding mourning” and “To the Lady Bedford”, Donne attempts to quiet these doubts by rendering absence into presence and discontinuity into continuity through the metaphors of alchemical process.

Keywords

Alchemy Separation Body Soul Donne 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The University of Western AustraliaPerthAustralia

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