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Essays on theatre, imagery, books and selves in early modern England>

This book focuses on performance construed in the largest sense, as the deployment of a personal style, as imagery of various kinds, and even as books, which in the early modern era often include strongly performative elements. The chapters in the book fall logically into four groups: on personal style and the construction of the self, on drama, on books, and on the visual arts. Personal style is performative in the simple sense that it is expressive and in the more complex sense that it thereby implies that there is something to express. The book takes a broad view of the question of performance through disguise. Disguises in Elizabethan drama are nearly always presumed to be impenetrable, effectively concealing the self, whereas costume is designed to adorn the self, to make the self more strikingly recognizable. The book considers the changing effects of disguise and costume both on concepts of the self and on assumptions about the kind of reality represented by theater. As a practice that makes performance visible as such, theater is characterized by an ongoing reflection on the very norms that make dramatic performance legible and indeed possible. Images are never more performative in and for a culture than when they offer a view onto the differences through which culture is made.

Sermons, poems, letters and Devotions

Ever since their rediscovery in the 1920s, John Donne's writings have been praised for their energy, vigour and drama – yet so far, no attempt has been made to approach and systematically define these major characteristics of his work. Drawing on J. L. Austin's speech act theory, this comparative reading of Donne's poetry and prose eschews questions of personal or religious sincerity, and instead recreates an image of Donne as a man of many performances. No matter if engaged in the writing of a sermon or a piece of erotic poetry, Donne placed enormous trust in what words could do. Questions as to how saying something may actually bring about that very thing, or how playing the part of someone else affects an actor's identity, are central to his oeuvre – and moreover, highly relevant in the cultural and theological contexts of the early modern period in general. Rather than his particular political or religious allegiances, Donne's preoccupation with linguistic performativity and theatrical efficaciousness is responsible for the dialogical involvedness of his sermons, the provocations of his worldly and divine poems, the aggressive patronage seeking of his letters, and the interpersonal engagement of his Devotions. In treating both canonical and lesser-known Donne texts, this book hopes to make a significant contribution not only to Donne criticism and research into early modern culture, but, by using concepts of performance and performativity as its major theoretical backdrop, it aims to establish an interdisciplinary link with the field of performance studies.

4 Patronage performances – Letters (for our Letters are our selves) and in them absent friends meet) (Letters 240) Donne’s letters have aroused the interest of literary critics in so far as they may shed some biographical light on their author. Much as one may be wary of identifying the speaker of a literary text with its author, this is commonly done in the case of letters. The idea of the letter as a mirror of its writer’s soul had great currency during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in England (Müller, 1980; Jagodzinski, 1999: 76). Influenced by

in John Donne’s Performances

1 Pulpit performances – Sermons We pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. (2 Cor. 5.20) This short verse epitomises the major purpose of Donne’s sermons. Humankind’s reconciliation with God is their central concern. There were two major channels through which such a conversion might be achieved: the sermon and the Eucharist. Despite their interrelatedness, homiletic and ritual elements of the early modern English service did not readily coexist – which is why an analysis of how Donne’s sermons combine homiletics with ritual starts off my

in John Donne’s Performances

3 Passionate performances – Poems erotic and divine for I Except you’enthrall mee, never shall be free, Nor ever chast, except you ravish mee. (‘Batter my heart’, ll. 12–14) Whereas Donne’s erotic poems are much indebted to religious metaphor, his nineteen ‘Holy Sonnets’ strongly rely on erotic imagery. After an analysis of Donne’s religiously erotic poems, these are now to be compared to his erotically religious poetry. As it engages in a histrionics of love making, Donne’s erotic poetry conceives of love as a matter of (artful) performance, hence subscribing

in John Donne’s Performances

2 Promethean and protean performances – Worldly poems And by these hymnes, all shall approve Us Canoniz’d for Love. (‘The Canonization’, ll. 35–6) Despite almost two hundred years of critical neglect, Donne is nowadays thoroughly ‘Canoniz’d’. His popularity results from his erotic and devotional poetry, but it is the interrelationship between the two genres that makes for Donne’s idiosyncrasy. Hence ‘hymnes’ are to bring about ‘The Canonization’ of two not merely spiritual lovers, who ‘dye and rise the same’ (l. 26). While this may be read as a reference to

in John Donne’s Performances

5 (Inter)Personal performances – Devotions therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee. (Devotions 87) This chapter centres on Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, a work originating from an illness during which Donne considered himself on the verge of death, and one of the few writings he published. There are important points of contact between epistolary and devotional modes: as the post-Reformation period witnessed shifts in devotional practices and a new interest in the self, these changes had consequences for early modern

in John Donne’s Performances
Abstract only

This is a volume of essays on performance construed in the largest sense, as theatre and pageantry, as the deployment of a personal style, as imagery of various kinds, and even as books, which in the early modern era often include strongly performative elements. Most of the essays are recent, and five are unpublished. They fall logically into four groups: on personal style and

in Spectacular Performances

’s Performances scrutinised for traces of the writer’s precise religious allegiances – and this holds not only for straightforwardly religious works, like the sermons or Devotions, but also for his divine and erotic poems (Martz, 1954; Lewalski, 1979; DiPasquale, 1999). The present study is no exception. I, too, have shown a preference for some of Donne’s poems over others, and, although my approach strives for greater comprehensiveness by focusing not only on Donne’s Songs and Sonets but also on his divine poetry, as well as his sermons, letters and Devotions, one cannot

in John Donne’s Performances

Donne and to be done (Saunders, 2006: 3–4). By approaching his writings as denominationally more or less neutral performances, I have refrained from assigning Donne to any particular religious confession. I have taken care to avoid projecting on to him any of my own convictions, and creating a Donne in the image of my own religious desires. Such evasion is, of course, not a virtue in itself, and one may criticise my reading precisely because it fails to take a stand with regard to Donne’s religious allegiances – undoubtedly one of the most relevant, if most contested

in John Donne’s Performances