This essay aims to understand the relationship between feeling and attention in gendered experiences of evaluative perception. Juxtaposing Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress” with ancient and early modern descriptions of laughter, humor, and comedy, I develop a new reading of the poem in which unserious or gratuitous attention is identified with gender subordination. Marvell’s poem confuses the hierarchy of significance on which comic misogyny depends. I conclude by identifying some of the cultural-historical reasons that the scene of heteroerotic encounter makes sense as a point of departure for Marvell’s experiment in levity.

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