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A text on its own is interesting but when you compare it with another text it becomes

illuminating and dynamic. How has your study of the connections between W;t and
Donnes poetry shown this?


Contrast between two texts of different contexts throws into sharp relief the concerns of both,
illustrating how these concerns are fixed in the human psyche, having survived the ages. Two
of the greatest quandaries embedded in the human condition are the questions of self-
discovery and how to face ones own inevitable death. Margaret Edsons W;t and John
Donnes poetry both answer these questions by advocating that one must allow oneself to be
guided by ones relationships. That the two texts are separated by four centuries of human
history allows comparison of their arguments to illuminate and enhance audience
understanding of the concerns.

There is an intrinsic human need to discover oneself, to define a sense of identity, and the
journey to do so is guided by ones relationships. Donnes poetry and Edsons W;t are both
like and unlike in this respect. Both agree that relationships are necessary for self-discovery,
particularly by relinquishing hubris for humility. However, it is their disparity in context that
causes them to advocate differing types of relationships. Donne, living in the pious Jacobean
era, and himself a devout man, naturally purports that it is ones religious relationships that
guide them towards self-discovery.

In At round earths imagind corners, he utilises the Petrarchan sonnet form, with the octet
conveying his dilemma and the sestet providing a solution. In the octet he makes Biblical
allusions to the Day of Judgement, wherein those who have died from are to arise from death
and be judged. Donne is not ready for judgement- he is a man whose sinnes abound and so,
he admits a dependence on his relationship with God in changing this identity. He adopts a
humble tone and begs God to teach (him) how to repent on this lowly ground. This would
allow him to become a new, redeemed man, as conveyed but the metaphor of a pardon
sealed with Jesus blood- if Donne could repent, he would be deserving of this pardon. Hence,
Donne argues that to gain a new, improved sense of self, a religious relationship with God
will teach one to do so.

On the other hand, Vivians journey to self-discovery is framed by the context within Edson
wrote; a secular society in which feminism has promoted and continues to promote female
independence. Vivian is hence characterised as a woman who does not depend on a
relationship with God to guide her; instead she depends on herself. This dependence is
derived from her hubris, her academia, and it is inadequate in guiding her to the self-
discovery. And so, she does not seek a religious reshaping of identity as Donne did- rather,
one of personal fulfilment- and it is human, not religious, relationships that guide her in her
transformation. This is apparent in the theatrical technique of projecting Donnes poem If
poysonous mineralls onto her body. It, like At round earths imagind corners, is a poem that
recommends a renewal of the self by finding humility through a relationship with God. Edson
recontextualises this concept; it is not a relationship with God that Vivian needs, it is
relationships with others. She realises her hubris at being the senior scholar blinded her to
the values of Donnes poetry as she reduced it to mere words in the same way that her doctors
metaphorically objectified her as a specimen jar. It is Vivians relationship with Susie that
teaches her to relinquish her pride and in humility find a path towards fulfilment, as is evident
in the Popsicle scene wherein she finds a humble humour in the word soporific and soon
falls into a gentle sleep. Hence she is no longer the prideful scholar; she is Vivian, a dying
woman finding some peace after finding humility. As such, it is clear that Wit and Donnes
poetry have both encompassed similar ideals despite their contextual differences, with
comparison of both texts enriching the advocated methodologies of both composers.