Pure souls, pure bodies: Metaphor in Donne and Milton
This dissertation argues that underneath the real and recognized differences between John Donne and John Milton, there is a surprising and unrecognized similarity in the way that these poets use metaphor to work out their thought on the relation between body and soul. Both Donne and Milton desire not only pure souls but also pure bodies, and while each desires this for his own reasons, they use figurative language in precisely the same way to suggest that such physical purity is not only possible but also that it cannot be separated from spiritual purity. Each repeatedly posits a metaphor that implies a metaphysical difference between body and soul and then collapses one term of the metaphor into the other term, dissolving the difference between them into identity. While Milton's monism has been definitively established and Donne's (implicit) monism has been recognized for some time now, this dissertation shows how these metaphysical positions are worked out on the level of language. Despite the much touted differences between the two poets, there is a remarkable congruence in the way these poets think through the means of metaphor. Each poet takes the ontological division between the tenor and vehicle that a metaphor implies and undoes it so that the two become one.