Conclusion: The Engineered Conscience

Ceri Sullivan

in The Rhetoric of the Conscience in Donne, Herbert, and Vaughan

Published in print September 2008 | ISBN: 9780199547845
Published online September 2008 | e-ISBN: 9780191720901 | DOI:
Conclusion: The Engineered Conscience

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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

Chapter.  5777 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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