John Donne 'to his mistress going to bed' comparative discussion with 'Courtly love or woman as thing' and 'Unbearable Weight'

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3. Write a detailed analysis of ANY ONE ballad OR love poem in the Norton Anthology of Poetry drawing on a comparative discussion of ANY TWO essays in the Norton Anthology of Theory & Criticism to illuminate your argument.

Many love poems are not actually about love; rather they are the objectification of a woman into a vessel for desire. John Donne’s poem ‘To His Mistress Going to Bed’1 appears on the surface to be a poem celebrating the beauty of the female body and the joys of sex. However it is through a closer reading that we see that this poem is in fact not celebrating the woman at all, rather she becomes an object through which the speaker can achieve his desire. By looking at Slavoj Žižek’s essay ‘Courtly Love, or, Woman as
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It also ‘carries connotations of fragility and lack of power in the face of a decisive male occupation of social space’14 . These ideas link in to the fact that only the woman’s vagina is described in Donne’s poem. She is not valued for anything except her ability to sexually please a man and reproduce. She is not a person but rather a vessel. This shows us that Donne is not writing about the beauty of the female body, but rather his own pleasure that will be achieved through this body.

We see Bordo’s ideas echoed particularly in lines 27-29 of the poem; O my America! my new-found-land, My kingdom, safeliest when with one man manned, My mine of precious stones, my empery, How blessed I am in this discovering thee! 15
Here the woman’s body is compared to America, linking the conquest of a country with the conquest of seduction. Bordo writes that the idealised lady is one of ‘sexual passivity’16 and this sexual passivity is demonstrated through these lines as the female is allowing herself to be conquered. There is no evidence of any resistance, but nor is there evidence of any willingness.These lines shift the poem so that it becomes even more dominated by the mans desire. In creating the idea that the woman is a conquest we lose any belief in the woman’s desire for the man. She changes from a partner in the act of sex into an object to be dominated, possessed. There is much use of the word ‘my’ in these lines; ‘my kingdom’, ‘my empery’ this shows that
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