Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Space between Two States

The poems we've considered in class, as well as our reading of Paradise Lost, have repeatedly sparked discussions about the way in which these authors break down binaries. In dealing with seeming dichotomous states such as "body/soul," "God/Satan," or "male/female." The pervading sense is, however, that as the authors magnify these binaries, the seemingly stark dividing lines between them become increasingly blurred, allowing that one can pass from one state to another, as in "The Waterfall," which traces the path from the binaries of life to death, or Paradis Lost's following of the path from heaven to hell. These poems suggest that, in any binary, what seems to be the given and what seems to be the absence are not stably constructed, but have to be constructed in relation to each other. In Marvell's "A Dialogue between the Soul and Body," we have the clearest distinction between two seemingly opposed states. The associations that each of these states links to itself at first continue to reinforce this binary (the same could be said regarding Milton's characters of Satan and the characterization of God), but the associations become muddled, eventually resulting in a switch of identities within these binaries, a deconstruction that questions our underlying conceptions regarding their actual difference. The question that interests me, then, is what happens at the crossing of the dividing line between these states. Milton's description of Satan's move from heaven to hell hints at the process, creating a liminal space through which one must pass before entering into the other side of the binary. Does the same space exist for Marvell between soul and body or Vaughan between life and death?

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