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“Companions of My Thoughts More Green”

Damon’s Baconian Sexing of Nature
  • Anthony J. Funari
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Abstract

In the last chapter, we saw how Donne, through recounting his bout with relapsing fever, challenges Bacon’s situating humanity in a dominant position to Nature. While Bacon holds out the promise that humanity could make the natural world mendable to its own ends, Donne reasserts humanity’s submissiveness to Nature. As Donne reveals, any control humanity might seem to gain over Nature is finally predicated on Nature’s own complicity. Donne offers a narrative that resists the anthropocentricism that is the hallmark of the Baconian narrative. In this chapter, I continue to analyze the resistance to Bacon’s narrative of humanity’s scientific conquest of the natural world, now as it is reiterated by Andrew Marvell. The return to a pristine, Edenic state with Nature and the human perversion of the natural world are two significant themes Marvell explores in pastoral poetry of the 1650s. Most likely written during his time at Appleton House, Marvell’s pastoral poems realize the paradisiacal space, marked by an intrinsic harmony between humanity and Nature, as beyond our ability to return to. Often Marvell concludes his pastoral poetry with a perspective looking to a prelapsarian moment that has been irretrievably lost. Moreover, Marvell depicts human intervention into the natural world as a corruption, one he realizes in highly sexualized language.

Keywords

Natural World Sexual Maturation Scientific Revolution Romantic Love Grand Narrative 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Carolyn Merchant, The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology, and the Scientific Revolution (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1980), 165.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See Susan Snyder, Pastoral Process: Spenser, Marvell, Milton (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998) 11, 16.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Francis Bacon, The Essays, in Francis Bacon, The Major Works, ed. Brian Vickers (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 187.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
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    Andrew Marvell, The Poems, 131, 152. In the Penguin Classic Edition of Marvell’s complete poems, Elizabeth Story Donno suggests a similar dating of “The Garden,” “The Mower Against Gardens,” and the Mower Poem sequence. Andrew Marvell, The Complete Poems, ed. Elizabeth Story Donno (New York: Penguin Books, 1986), 100–110.Google Scholar
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    Interestingly, Luce Irigaray makes much the same point regarding the imperative of procreation as obstructing any emotional closeness between heterosexual couples: “‘Mother’ and ‘father’ dominate the couple’s functioning, but only as social roles. The division of labor prevents them from making love. They produce or reproduce.” “The Sex Which Is Not One,” in From Modernism to Postmodernism, ed. Lawrence Cahoone (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2006), 256.Google Scholar
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    For further discussion of Bacon’s fear of desire disrupting the reproduction of the state and scientific knowledge, see Peter Pesic, “Desire, Science, and Polity: Francis Bacon’s Account of Eros,” Interpretation: A Journal of Political Philosophy 26, no. 3 (Spring 1999): 333–52.Google Scholar
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    Robert Boyle, Certain Physiological Essays and Other Tracts (London, 1661), 41–42. Carolyn Merchant offers a similar reading of this passage from Boyle’s essay in The Death of Nature, 189.Google Scholar
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    William Harvey, The Works of William Harvey, trans. Robert Willis (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1989), 153.Google Scholar
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    Tayler finds the syntax of the line ambiguous: “luxuriant” modifies either the grass in the meadows or Damon’s own thoughts. Edward William Tayler, Nature and Art in Renaissance Literature (New York: Columbia University Press, 1964), 157. My reading of the line argues that Damon, through his own sexually aware perspective, sees the meadows as sexual.Google Scholar
  25. 48.
    Leah S. Marcus remarks on how the image of the blade of grass abutted on both sides by a flower recreates the phallus. The Politics of Mirth: Jonson, Herrick, Milton, Marvell, and the Defense of Old Holiday Pastimes (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), 234–35.Google Scholar
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© Anthony J. Funari 2011

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  • Anthony J. Funari

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