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The Rhetoric of the Conscience in Donne, Herbert, and Vaughan$
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Ceri Sullivan

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199547845

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199547845.001.0001

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Conclusion: The Engineered Conscience

Conclusion: The Engineered Conscience

(p.220) Conclusion: The Engineered Conscience
The Rhetoric of the Conscience in Donne, Herbert, and Vaughan

Ceri Sullivan (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Each element in the syllogism of the conscience has been tested and found faulty, and each breakdown has been expressed through an alteration in the poet's flesh. Though under Christian theology an enquiry into the body is also an enquiry into the godhead that it images, the form mirrored by the poems is not flawless. In Donne, Herbert, and Vaughan, the body is forced into a grotesque shape by the divine pressure to speak. The psychological costs of maintaining a conscience are the aetiolated attitudes of boredom, irony, and opportunistic agreement. They appear in a caricature of a body which is tortured, particulated, involuted, written, on and wrung out. It is thus never wholly the poets' own as it utters someone else's intruded words. Though poems murmur about techniques of control, the devices of grace force disgruntled ejaculations from them. They are more than they mean to say. Such a consciously inadequate use by the poets must shake the position which metaphysical poetry has held for two decades, through Lewalski's scholarly vigour, of being a solely and stoutly Protestant poetics of the Word. Indeed, Stuart writers show that the torques produced by enigma, aposiopesis, subjectio, antanaclasis, and chiasmus engineer the conscience with perhaps a little discomfort in a prosthetic poetics.

Keywords:   godhead, body, flesh, grotesque, prosthetic, poetics, engineer, caricature

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