The Glass As Half Full

1552 Words Nov 15th, 2014 7 Pages
Arati M. Jambotkar
ENGL 520
Short Paper
2 October 2014
The Glass as Half-Full: A Reflection of the Unseen in “Sappho to Philaenis”
Skepticism surrounding John Donne’s “Sappho to Philaenis” relates to the fact that the societal structure at the time the poem was written was one dominated by heterosexual, misogynistic men, suggesting that Donne’s treatment of female homosexuality was geared towards the satiation of these heterosexual males’ desires, these men being his primary audience at the time. However, the significance of Donne’s poem must be explored on another level. In contrast to the view that the piece was meant to represent a male dominant society, an alternate view is that the poem originates from a place of protofeminism and a pioneering sexual outlook on Donne’s part. In “Sappho to Philaenis,” the purity and secrecy of the two women’s sexuality functions as a significant argument for the validity of same-sex relationships; Donne makes the invisible the erotic, thereby defining a discourse for lesbianism. Early modern literature penned by heterosexual males and referencing lesbian relationships should not be dismissed as being inauthentic and inaccurate depictions solely based on the fact that a male perspective is given with regard to these relationships. James Holstun claims that Donne takes the concepts of sameness, oneness, and mirroring in “Sappho to Philaenis” and infuses a heterosexist judgment, viewing lesbianism from a sterile, impersonal…
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