Figures of comparison and repetition in Spenser’s Cantos of
Mutabilitie and Donne’s Anniversaries
, Quintilian notes, for its visual or iconic qualities. Yet its constitutive dilation aims for comparison rather than substitution, a distinction that can have substantial cognitive, ontological, and aesthetic implications. 41 As for simile’s decorum, Quintilian warns against choosing a comparatum too obscure, unfamiliar, or dissimilar; though sometimes the novelty, sublimity, colour, and surprise produced justify the risk. 42 In effect, the conservative Quintilian, with a wary eye on the mannered prose and verse of his time, offers a scopic criterion to evaluate the
) versus true Redcrosse. The topos of false identity gives rise to the disputation of ontological truth – ‘I that do seeme not I, Duessa ame’. Yet Spenser would not risk leaving any moral or ethical ambiguity here as his ontological argument is enmeshed within a theological statement; therefore even falsehood has a certain and definite lineage – ‘ Duessa I, the daughter of Deceipt and Shame’ (I.v.26). Analysed logically, even Duessa is important enough to have her lineage described from the topos of efficient cause. 54
The endless falsehood, the discrepancy between
Spenser’s Busirane and Donne’s ‘A Valediction of my name, in the window’
, domestic and strange, figuration and ontology, that the idea of character evokes. The heart was for Spenser and his contemporaries the seat of the passions and the vital centre of the inner self. Bernard Silvester eloquently captured the centrality of the heart in his twelfth-century Cosmographia , describing it as ‘the animating spark of the body, nurse of its life, the creative principle and harmonizing bond of the senses; the central link in the human structure, the terminus of the veins, root of the nerves, and controller of the arteries, mainstay of our nature’. 41
The concept of hauntology was theorised by Jacques Derrida in Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International ( Spectres de Marx , Paris: Galilée, 1993), trans. Peggy Kamuf (London and New York: Routledge, 1994). A portmanteau of haunting and ontology, hauntology replaces ‘the priority of being and presence with the figure of the ghost as that which is neither present, nor absent, neither dead nor alive’. Colin Davis, ‘ État présent . Hauntology, spectres and phantoms
her motherhood: ‘[m]ore than anything else, in Taymor's film, Prospera is a scientist in search of an inhabitable – though clearly not hospitable epistemology’.
The corseted gown in which she willingly, if painfully, imprisons herself, embodies this sacrifice, which ‘is not merely sartorial – it is ontological’.
As with stage productions I discussed, some reviewers could not see past Mirren's gender and the fact of Prospera
scholars the space between Donne and Spenser can seem almost an ontological chasm. In an essay on the genres of Donne’s love lyrics and their problematic description in literary history, Dayton Haskin reaches for a binary characterization of the two poets, which is, as he is well aware, of long duration: ‘Modernist poets found vital inspiration in Donne’s having made so productive a break with his predecessors. Even today, to come upon Donne’s voice after hearing Spenser’s can seem a difference as great as between night and day.’ 2 The night/day opposition is another
semaine into Latin. 33 An allegorical defence of philosophical poetry in the form of a dream vision, Du Monin’s text establishes a literary history for the genre going back to Orpheus and takes as its core subject the discovery of the nature of things – the order underlying the natural world, the microcosm of the individual, the cosmos itself.
Philosophical poetry, therefore, may be characterized by its focus on epistemological problems and its movement away from the ontological questions that underlie traditional Scholastic philosophy
8 From ‘John Donne’, The Nation and the Athenaeum , 33:10 (9 June 1923), 331–2; emphasis added.
9 For a different assessment of the unwarranted ‘ontological chasm’ that obtains between Spenser and Donne, see Richard Danson Brown, Chapter 1 above.
10 For Joyce’s pronouncements on the inherently medieval nature of the Irish, fundamentally setting them at odds with the English who are all ‘Renaissance men’, see Arthur Power, Conversations with James Joyce (1974; Dublin
from out of
Petrarch’s already self-professedly ‘scattered
rhymes’. One of the titles by which Petrarch’s lyric
collection circulated, Rime sparse , a phrase borrowed from
the opening line of the opening sonnet (‘Voi,
ch’ascoltate in rime sparse il suono’, ‘You who
hear in scattered rhymes the sound’), implies lyric
The Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure, Twelfth Night
contradiction here, on the contrary – it also matches L’Homme-as-Pharisee: ‘suis Saint, & aimé de Dieu’ (I am a saint, to God most dear). 53 At least the more theologically serious accusers of Puritan hypocrisy were effectively applying the same ontological understanding as Barran’s: as previously mentioned, it is the latter’s Satan who scornfully plants Concupiscence in the heart of ‘ce beau Saint’ (this splendid Saint) 54 and so sets him up for his fall from his pretence in the exposure scene. 55 It is precisely his conviction of sainthood that enables L’Homme to harbour