This talk explores the metaphor of the knot as a way to understand both marital bonds, and bonds between man and God, in the Christian tradition. Why the knot was so appealing a metaphor, what kind of flexibility it afforded, and how it could be done and undone, will be discussed both in the general context of early modern religious and literary practice, and specifically in the sonnets of Vittoria Colonna (1490-1547), who was the first poet to transform the sonnet from an erotic to a devotional genre, using the knot as a means of passage from one bond to the next.
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Ramie Targoff is Professor of English, Co-Chair of Italian Studies, and Director of the Mandel Center for the Humanities at Brandeis University. Her publications include Common Prayer: The Language of Public Devotion (2001); John Donne, Body and Soul (2008); and Posthumous Love: Eros and the Afterlife in Renaissance England (2014); and two edited volumes, Sir Thomas Browne: Religio Medici and Urn-Burial (2012), and Love after Death in the Mediterranean World from Antiquity through the Renaissance (2014). Her biography of Vittoria Colonna, Divine Vittoria, will be published in 2017.