The Caroline Era in early modern England was characterized by political instability and theological revolution. In response, there were ideological attempts to regulate desire and a distinct focus on the creation of a public persona. These crises led to anxieties about gender, performance, and the body. Literary production at this time was founded in political conflict and was both a response to and an escape from these events. In this article, I argue that early modern writers literarily regulate gender and bodies through the personal, political and theological happenings that they respond to within their work. John Donne’s metaphysical poetry and George Herbert’s The Temple
express the anxiety of desire involved in the process of seeking God. These texts translate this through the language of eros, bodily sacrificial connection to the Divine Logos, and communion that focuses on digestion and inclusion in the corporeal universe as a means to achieve the divine moment. Similarly, John Ford’s The Broken Heart
portrays anxieties about desire and appetite through female anatomization. The portrayals of desire, anxiety, and appetite in these texts (all first published in 1633) are representative of the historical, political, and religious ideological structures that informed their creation.
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