Marvell’s Maps: Reading Empire through Microcosm at Nun Appleton

Daniel Normandin


Critics have long been attuned to Andrew Marvell’s virtuosic manipulations of scale and space in his early country-house poem, 'Upon Appleton House'. Marvell’s meanings are irrepressibly expansive, signifying outward from the Fairfax family and its estates to the English nation as a whole. This essay extends those meanings yet further, arguing that the poem’s paradoxically aligned techniques of compression and expansion—that is, its reliance on microcosmic figures—lend it an imperial dimension. The poem’s miniaturizations permit Marvell to depict national concerns as household ones, but they also allow the poet’s spatial imagination to expand beyond insular boundaries, to attain global reach even while rooted in an explicitly local setting.


Marvell; microcosm; empire; space; cartography

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