Abstract and Keywords
This chapter situates Marvell’s lyric interrogations of gender and desire within the discursive and historical parameters of his classicism, paying particular attention to the rhetorical practices of the pedagogical institution in which he first learned to play Latin language games. It demonstrates that the way Marvell repurposes ancient precursors requires us to think rigorously about the terrain his explorations of desire share with non-normative psychoanalytic theory. Like Freud in his most radical moments, Marvell represents ‘love’ as an enigmatic phenomenon requiring further interrogation. The institutional language games at issue in the first half are ekphrasis, exempla, and sententiae—‘unfortunate’ figures for love that anticipate psychoanalytic theories of narcissism and primary masochism. The second half follows Marvell’s talent for prosopopoeia, the Roman practice of inventing voices for ancient characters, as he reimagines inherited narratives about gender and desire in the voice of a pubescent nymph as yet unfamiliar with adult sexual meanings.
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