By M. Winkleman, Michael A. Winkelman
Investigations into how the mind truly works have ended in notable discoveries and those findings hold profound implications for examining literature. This examine applies contemporary breakthroughs from neuroscience and evolutionary psychology with a purpose to deepen our figuring out of John Donne's Songs and Sonnets.
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In this wry carmen tenerum, the protagonist complains that he has trained his neophyte paramour so well that she has grown wise enough to leave him: “Natures lay Ideot, I taught thee to love, / And in that sophistrie, Oh, thou dost prove / Too subtile” (1–3). Prior to his tutelage, she was unschooled in “all the love trickes” he imparted (16): Foole, thou didst not understand The mystique language of the eye nor hand: Nor couldst thou judge the difference of the aire Of sighes, and say, this lies, this sounds despaire: Nor by the’eyes water call a maladie Desperately hot, or changing feaverously.
No one will ever again hear about a close escape from a saber-tooth tiger in Ursprache, nor a saga about a woolly mammoth hunt in Proto-Indo-European, but measuring things like cranial capacity, hyoid bone shape, musculoskeletal formation, and changes in the larynx help clue us in to the semantic skills of our ancestors. This is because language requires not only a suite of specialized cognitive proficiencies but also certain biomechanical components, notably the abilities to enunciate various phonemes and hear them distinctly—astonishing adaptations that we normally take for granted.
My new-found-land, / My kingdome, safeliest when with one man man’d, / . . ” (27–30). In the final couplet, however, Washington laments that after exploring this enticing landscape he has found, his beloved is absent: “Love’s flag quickly I planted on the beach / While I explored, but the one I love is not there” (13–14). Bishop’s poem matches clever construction with a technical artistry rare in a time when trite free verse and raw confessionalism substitute for formal skill and serious contemplation.
A Cognitive Approach to John Donne’s Songs and Sonnets by M. Winkleman, Michael A. Winkelman