Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2018

Access Restrictions

Access restricted until 08/31/2020

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Greteman, Blaine

First Committee Member

Branch, Lori

Second Committee Member

Snider, Alvin

Third Committee Member

Hooks, Adam

Fourth Committee Member

Johnson, Kimberly


My dissertation investigates how Renaissance Platonism and Neoplatonism at the turn of the Seventeenth century in England gave rise to new ways of thinking and writing about love. While it remains commonplace to see a clear and hierarchical distinction between the spiritual and the material in most seventeenth-century philosophies of love, the poets I consider all confront an emerging suspicion that all forms of love, from cupiditas to caritas and from eros to agape, require the lively activity of physical bodies, with all of the passions, affections, and humors that accompany and influence them. With chapters on William Shakespeare, John Donne, Thomas Traherne, and Andrew Marvell, I argue that an awareness of love as an embodied expression that precedes and conditions our interpretive judgments allows these poets to separate how well a being loves from how lovable that being is. This new orientation toward lovability appears not only in the content of these poets' work but also in the physical medium through which that content finds expression. I argue that the decision by each of these poets generally to avoid print and to restrict the circulation of their manuscripts reflects a sense of the poem both as a site of meditation on the meaning of lovability and also as a physical recognition of lovability in a specific addressee or intended reader. The poem comes to perform, in ways previously unthought and still woefully underconsidered, the very activity it describes. Drawing on archival research completed at the Bodliean and British Libraries, this dissertation brings together the traditionally distinct fields of manuscript studies, early modern English poetics, as well as contemporary ethical and political philosophy, particularly as brought into focus by the influential Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben. In the process, it offers original accounts of lovability in early modern English manuscript poetics and reveals what makes these poets as radical and timely now as they were in the 17th century.


vii, 148 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 137-148).


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Copyright © 2018 Brett Bennett DeFries