Discordia concors and bidirectionality: Embodied cognition in John donne s songs and sonnets

Chanita Goodblatt, Joseph Glicksohn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


In the introduction to his 1912 edition of John Donne s poetry, Herbert J. C. Grierson writes of "the vein of sheer ugliness which runs through his work, presenting details that seem merely and wantonly repulsive." What is more, Donne displays what Samuel Johnson argues is "a kind of discordia concors; a combination of dissimilar images." Through both a cognitive-literary and an empirical study of the metaphors in Donne s poems "The Bait" and "The Flea," the authors discuss the grotesque nature of his poetic imagery as constituting "a clash of incompatibles, generated by the great distance between the two semantic fields." The authors argue that it is this clash that sustains bidirectionality in a metaphor, by preserving the tension between its two subjects, while allowing each to alternatively become the focus of one s attention while reading. Donne s use of grotesque imagery thereby juxtaposes semantic fields and their worlds with frightening consequences, and this impacts upon the bidirectionality inherent in the process of metaphor comprehension. Furthermore, this essay will show how the poetic texts enable both embodied simulation and bodily feeling, both of which manifest embodied cognition in the reader; the authors therefore argue that Donne is, in fact, an early advocate of embodied cognition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-188
Number of pages26
JournalPoetics Today
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 by Porter Institute for Poetics and Semiotics.


  • Embodied cognition
  • Gestalt
  • Grotesque
  • Interaction
  • John Donne


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