‘Straunge characters’
Spenser’s Busirane and Donne’s ‘A Valediction of my name, in the window’
in Spenser and Donne
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John Donne and Edmund Spenser each fashion distinct and powerfully recognizable signature styles over the course of their careers. Both poets engage self-reflexively with early modern ideas about how style, what George Puttenham called mentis character, is sedimented into language. This chapter examines how physiognomical or allegorical depiction instantiates literary characters in moments of graphic inscription and erotic violence. Thomas Overbury furnishes an illuminating definition of character that lies at the interface between incised mark and the representation of a person. He describes how children learned to form the alphabet by tracing letters in incised grooves, a training that left a lingering, emotional memory. This analysis centres on how the discourses of erotic love can both establish authorial identity and undo conceptions of individually bounded subjectivity through a secret graphic system of character.

Spenser and Donne

Thinking poets

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