Social Context in the Poetry of John Donne Essay example

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Social Context in the Poetry of John Donne


Contemporary literary theory has thoroughly debunked the traditional view of the artist as a divinely inspired, completely original and creative individual. This view has been replaced with the more apt view of the author as a product of his or her environment and the existing discourses of the society in which he or she lives. In this new attitude toward the writer as a product of society, the author is considered, according to Dr. James E. Porter, as somewhat of a quiltmaker who takes various traces of the existing cultural intertext (the collected writing and debate of a society) and combines them in new ways to create new discourse (34). Differences in these new discourses of various
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In this marital system, the individual was almost completely at the mercy of the collective will of the family.

The process for choosing a mate came into a state of flux during the end of the sixteenth century. During this time, the growing independence of the nuclear family from the extended kin and the closer relationships between parent and child because of lower rates of infant death lead to a greater amount of choice for the children in selecting a mate (Stone 184). While much of the upper aristocracy still reserved the right to choose the mate for their children, many families, especially in the growing bourgeois and professional classes granted their children either extensive veto rights in these proceedings or let the children themselves find and select a mate (Stone 181-182). In many cases, these more permissive parents still reserved limited veto powers, although even that was being called into question in some circles.

Similarly, the motives for choice of a spouse also began to be questioned and changed. The traditional practice of the high and low ends of the social spectrum of choosing a mate to consolidate wealth and political power came under serious criticism as being a vulgar, mercenary approach to marriage that did not make connubial bliss very likely (Stone 182). Instead, personal affection tested through a long courtship prior to matrimony started to supplant…