Date of Award

Spring 5-22-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Lynne A Greenberg

Second Advisor

Cristina Leon Alfar

Academic Program Adviser

Janet Neary


My MA thesis examines sixteenth and seventeeth-century lyric poetry by the male poets Sir Philip Sidney, John Donne, Thomas Carew, and Andrew Marvell. These poets make use of different lyric genres and forms, including Petrarchan sonnets and carpe diem arguments, to torture the purported female mistresses. A close examination of specific works, including Sidney’s Astrophil and Stella, Donne’s “The Apparition”, Carew’s “Song: Persuasion to Enjoy”, and Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress” demonstrates that they all share a preoccupation with weaponizing poetry in their depiction of mistresses and female lovers in pain and punishment. Poetry functions as a tool for imposing pain, both psychological and importantly physical, for a variety of purposes in these poems. This thesis applies Elaine Scarry’s analysis of torture in The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s analysis of male homosocial bonding and desire in Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire. My analysis is supported by Elaine Scarry’s theoretical foundation of torture that I apply to my close reading of the poems specifically chosen for my thesis. My interpretation of these poems encourages a closer look at the problematic relationship between male poet and female mistress through the literary construction of women’s pain.



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