“To His Coy Mistress”: The Text and the World

TEXTS can’t but be part of the WORLD
1. How do texts represent the world? Where does a text begin and end? Is the author an inhabitant of the world or a creation of a literary text?
Can literary texts do things to the world as well as simply describe it?
2. This discussion goes back to Plato and his distinction between and ultimate reality and a replica world.
The core of Platonic thought resides in Plato’s doctrine of essences, ideas, or forms. Ultimate reality, he states, is spiritual. This spiritual realm which Plato calls The One, is composed of ‘ideal’ forms or absolutes that exist whether or not any mind posits their existence or reflects their attributes. It is these ideal forms that give shape to our physical world, for our material world is nothing more than a shadowy replica of the absolute forms found is the spiritual realm.
Therefore, he banished poets from his Republic stating that “poets are inferiors who get married to inferiors and have inferior offspring”
3. Therefore, any discussion about mimesis, imitation or even representation assumes that there’s a chasm between the text and the world. But does such dichotomy exist? How deep is this chasm?
4. This is by no means a discussion of Realism or how close to reality texts are, but rather it is a discussion of how texts make up/create realities. In a word, it is about how texts intermingle with real life and how the discrepancy and dichotomy disappear.
5. Now Should ‘To His Coy Mistress” be read as a real poem of seduction? Is the speaker the same as the poet? Did Marvell know a woman and send her this poem? OR should we understand the speaker to be a fictional CONSTRUCTION and the real reader/s being US?
6. Most readings of the poem assume that the latter is the case, that rather than attempting to seduce a woman, this poem represents a fictional dramatization of such an attempt.
7. However, ‘To His Coy Mistress’ dislodges any stable opposition of fiction and the real. HWY? and HOW ?
1) regardless of whether the mistress in conceived as real or fictive, the poem has effects on us.
2) the poem could be considered performative in the sense that it performs an act not so much of sexual but as of textual seduction.
3) it entices us to read and read on and to draw us into another world. A world of reading that is both fictional and real.
4) To talk about texts as representing reality simply overlooks ways in which texts are already part of that reality, and ways in which literary texts produce our reality, make our worlds.
5) The poem does not of course stop here. It can be shown to engage with the world through the use of a number of specific discourses. The seduction for instance is mediated through references to other texts. (poems of love, poems of seduction, carpe diem…)
6) The poem could be seen as an example of what the Russian critic M. M. Bakhtin calls ‘heterogolossia’ in that it embraces a series of overlapping codes and discourses. This complex jumble of references to different discourses positions the text in relation to ‘the world’—even if we try to read the poem as simply fictional.
7) Rather than thinking of the ‘text’ on one side and ‘the world’ on the other, we might reflect on the idea that everything human that happens in the world is mediated by LANGUAGE.
8) Jacques Derrida says ‘There is nothing outside the text’ meaning (Does not mean there is no real world) there’s no perception or experience which is NOT bound up with effects of text or language.
9) Put crudely, there is no access to ‘the world’ except, in the broadest sense, through language.
1) A fiction of immediacy that truly gives a sense that the speaker is addressing a woman who is present and that action of this poem takes place in real time (Now… Now)
2) The references to the woman’s body is a trial to go beyond language. His reference to woman’s blush which ‘transpires/at every pore’ is read by the poet (any by most readers on first readings/impressions) as a sign of the inner ‘fires’ produced by the ‘willing soul'(???) of the woman.
3) That is in fact a way of turning the woman’s body into a text to be read and interpreted.
4) Part of the irony here is that the poet’s/speaker’s reading is highly questionable
5) In a word, the poem’s fiction of immediacy attempts to get a world supposedly beyond language, a world embodied in and as the body of the woman, is compromised at
Why such texts are dangerous
1) This text can’t but be part of the world.
2) To talk about texts as representing reality simply overlooks ways in which texts are already part of that reality, and ways in which literary texts produce our reality, make our worlds.
3) In this respect we may be prompted to ask what is at stake by such representation of the female body?
4) The mixture between the figurative and aesthetic representation on one side and representing the woman as a dead body is , to some readers, repulsive and misogynistic.
5) In her ‘Over Her Dead Body’, Elizabeth Bronfen has explored the multiple ways in which patriarchy figures the conjugation of femininity with death.
6) According to this thinking, the very status of Marvell’s poem as a classic, its reproduction in classrooms, lectures, theatres, anthologies and in books produces and reinforces the cultural construction of a ‘woman’ as allied with death and with the aesthetic.

Short Story: General Notes

What else have you learnt so far?

1) Reading for pleasure and insight. Read for growth and experience.
2) Look up for unfamiliar words/references/expressions and delve beyond the surface.
3) Observe how the plot unfolds and unravels.
4) Note how characters are presented and how and why they develop/change.
5) Beware of the time and place and look for their effect on plot and characters.
6) Take note of the story’s point of view.
7) Take note of the story’s point of view.
8) Do not accept anything in a story. Question everything.
9) Be alert to the author’s use of irony a sarcasm and other literary devices.
10) Probe for (a) central idea(s).
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