Following our session on the dialogue poems at the South-Central Renaissance Conference in 2009, we turn our attention in 2010 to one of Marvell’s brief, perplexing lyrics, “The Definition of Love”.
Typically regarded as one of his distinctively “metaphysical” poems, it is frequently anthologized and thus, one presumes, regularly taught. But there is strong critical disagreement over the poem’s method and meaning. Is its apparently rigorous and paradoxical logic substantial and profound, or is it a hollow facsimile of the manner of Donne? What are the implications of its dense astronomical, astrological, and cartographic imagery? How does its conclusion that the speaker’s love is “the conjunction of the mind, / And opposition of the stars” follow from the preceding arguments? And in what sense does the poem in fact follow through on the promise of its title? By bringing together several different perspectives on the poem we will open it up for what we hope will be a productive discussion.
Timothy Raylor (Carleton College),
Executive-Secretary Andrew Marvell Society