Hello! My name is Gabrielle Linnell and I’m preparing to spend a year lost in imaginary gardens.

Credit: Tom Ciriello, Flickr / Creative Commons

Credit: Tom Ciriello, Flickr / Creative Commons

I am about to begin an M.Phil in Medieval & Renaissance Literature at the University of Cambridge. (For me, that is more or less one of the Greatest Sentences in English literature, medieval-onwards.) During the program, I will focus on the works of John Donne and John Milton as well as assorted seventeenth-century contemporaries. I’m looking at the role of spatial metamorphosis, or rather, the ways in which Donne and Milton craft unexpected landscapes which change, shift, and evolve while their speakers move through them, and examine how and why they do so.

This work builds on my undergraduate studies at Wellesley College, where I pursued similar questions in The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser and in the lyric poetry of Andrew Marvell.

In poetry and in life, I’m fascinated by virtual worlds, the kind of spaces we create to mimic and react to us. I often see creative cross-currents between the early modern poetry I study and the digital landscape we all live in, for better and worse. (Here, my thoughts have been influenced by William Powers, Sherry Turkle, Michael Sacasas, and the poet T.J. Jarrett, among other very neat people.)

This is perhaps not surprising: poetry tells us about life itself; recounts the past and reinterprets it; examines the way we relate to each other; investigates the role of environments; deconstructs and reconstructs the most intimate of relationships; imagines new possibilities for the way we live. Donne and Milton offer many imaginary gardens, virtual worlds in which we lose ourselves and find ourselves still today, when we might also lose ourselves in a labyrinthine Reddit.

On this blog, and at odd intervals, I will be musing about early modern poetry, the role of place, and the critical connections between the poetry and our curiously digital planet. I’ll also fill in bits and bobs from the life of a graduate student in Cambridge, once I arrive. (Right now I’m attempting to resurrect my Latin and re-read Paradise Lost. ) It should be, if nothing else, fun.

Thoughts? Questions? Spurious insults? Deposit them in the comments section or send me a tweet @gclinnell.


Photo Credit: Tom Ciriello.