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Andrew Marvell's Liminal Lyrics

The Space Between

Joan Faust

Andrew Marvell's Liminal Lyrics: The Space Between is an interdisciplinary study of the major lyric poems of seventeenth-century British metaphysical poet Andrew Marvell. The poet and his work have generally proven enigmatic to scholars because both refuse to fit into normal categories and expectations. This study invites Marvell readers to view the poet and some of his representative lyrics in the context of the anthropological concept of liminality as developed by Victor Turner and enriched by Arnold Van Gennep, Jacques Lacan, and other observers of the in-between aspects of experience. The approach differs from previous attempts to “explain” Marvell in that it allows multidisciplinary and multi-media contexts in a broad matrix of the areas of experience and representation that defy boundaries, that blur the line at which entrance becomes exit. This study acknowledges that the poems discussed, and, by implication, the entire corpus of Marvell’s work and the life that produced it, derive from a refusal to draw a definite divide. In analyzing a small selection of Marvell’s life and lyrics as explorations of various realms of liminality in word and image, readers can see a passageway to the poet’s works that never really reaches a destination; instead, the unlimited possibilities of the journey remain. Thus, the in-between aspects of the poet and his poetry actually define his technique as well as his brilliance.

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University Press Copublishing Division / University of Delaware Press
Pages: 236Size: 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
978-1-61149-410-5 • Hardback • October 2012 • $79.00 • (£52.95)
978-1-61149-520-1 • Paperback • June 2014 • $41.99 • (£27.95)
978-1-61149-411-2 • eBook • September 2012 • $38.99 • (£24.95)
Joan Faust is professor of English at Southeastern Louisiana University. She serves on the editorial board of the journal Explorations in Renaissance Culture, is the Executive Secretary of the Andrew Marvell Society, and represents the Andrew Marvell Society on the Executive Board of the South-Central Renaissance Conference.
List of Illustrations


Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: The Concept of Liminality and Marvell’s Liminal Life
Chapter 3: “Upon Appleton House”: Marvell’s Portrait of a Liminal Realm
Chapter 4: Blending the Arts in the Act of Creation: “The Garden”
Chapter 5: In-Between Life and Art: Marvell’s Mower and Nymph
The Mower Poems
“The Nymph Complaining for the Death of her Fawn”
Chapter 6: Smoke and Mirrors:
“On a Drop of Dew,”
“Eyes and Tears” and “Mourning”
“The Gallery”
Chapter 7: In-Between Concept and Understanding: “The Definition of Love”
Chapter 8: Marvell’s “Soul” and “Body”: The Dialogue Continues
About the Author


Primary Sources

Secondary Sources
Faust (Southeastern Louisiana Univ.) draws on the anthropological concept of the liminal to analyze 13 of Andrew Marvell's lyric poems. She concludes that appreciation of these poems' liminal nature enables readers to cease seeking definitive understandings of Marvell's life and works and to "revel in Marvell's own appreciation of the process, the potential, the doorway, the space between." The "liminality" she perceives in the poems includes a wide variety of "in-between places." For example, "Upon Appleton House" reflects Lord Fairfax's own liminal state; "The Nymph Complaining for the Death of Her Fawn" reflects the liminal state between life and art; dialogue itself is liminal in "A Dialogue between the Soul and Body"; and in "The Definition of Love" it is the reader rather than the speaker who is "left in the liminal area of uncertainty." In short, "liminality" is a net cast widely, broadly describing Marvell's well-known complexity and ambiguity. The book includes 20 illustrations and endnotes after each chapter. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.

Professor Faust’s goal is clearly to open a productive “space,” as her title suggests, for discussing Marvell’s strange, powerful poetics. At this she succeeds, and in this regard Magritte’s thoughts on representation really are provocative. Indeed, I might add that they are a welcome provocation to those of us who rest a little too easy in the confidence that our own historical approach gives us the correct perspective on Marvell and his culture, only to discover occasionally that we share a viewpoint with the observer of Magritte’s La Conditionne humaine. In that painting, as Faust notes, the “real” landscape turns out to be the combined product of artistic representation and our own imaginations. In such a space, backward and forward, Marvell seems fully at home.
Andrew Marvell Newsletter

[T]he most illuminating approach to Marvell’s work that I’ve found. . . .Faust is to be commended for her superb marshaling of secondary sources.
The Spenser Review