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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.

Stages of the soul in early modern English poetry

This study analyses concepts and representations of the soul in the poetry of William Shakespeare and John Donne. During the early modern period, the soul is often presented as an actor on the stage of the poem, and the soul often becomes a stage by itself when conflicts within it are being enacted, in the tradition of psychomachia. The soul thus becomes a linking element between the genres of poetry and drama; at the same time, poetry becomes dramatic whenever the soul is at its focus. This double movement can be observed in the poems by Shakespeare and Donne that are concerned with the fate of the soul and represent inner states and processes: in The Rape of Lucrece the inner drama of the soul is being enacted; the Holy Sonnets are soliloquies by and about the soul. Here, the connection between interiority and performance, psychology and religious self-care can be found which is central to the understanding of early modern drama and its characteristic development of the soliloquy. The study thus offers a new reading of the poems by Shakespeare and Donne by analysing them, in different ways, as staged dialogues within the soul. It furthermore contributes to research on the soliloquy as much as on concepts of inwardness during the early modern period; it shows how the reflection on the soul and religious care for salvation develops in interaction with inwardness and theatrical exposure. It is aimed at readers interested in early modern literature and culture.

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Thinking poets

The names Edmund Spenser and John Donne are typically associated with different ages in English poetry, the former with the sixteenth century and the Elizabethan Golden Age, the latter with the ‘metaphysical’ poets of the seventeenth century. This collection of essays, part of The Manchester Spenser series, brings together leading Spenser and Donne scholars to challenge this dichotomous view and to engage critically with both poets, not only at the sites of direct allusion, imitation, or parody but also in terms of common preoccupations and continuities of thought, informed by the literary and historical contexts of the politically and intellectually turbulent turn of the century. Juxtaposing these two poets, so apparently unlike one another, for comparison rather than contrast changes our understanding of each poet individually and moves towards a more holistic, relational view of their poetics.

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Literary form and religious conflict in early modern England

This book explores a range of literary and theatrical forms as means of mediating religious conflict in early modern England. It deals with the specific ways available to mediate religious conflict, precisely because faith mattered more than many other social paradigms. The first part explores the ways in which specific religious rituals and related cultural practices were taken up by literary texts. In a compelling rereading of the final act of 'The Merchant of Venice', the book investigates the devotional differences informing early modern observances of Easter. Subsequently, it explores the ways in which Christmas provided a confessional bridge uniting different religious constituencies. Goodnight ballads were not only commercially successful pieces of public entertainment but also effective forms of predominantly Protestant religious persuasion. The book's consideration of Elizabethan romance links the literary form to the sacrament of the Eucharist, and argues that the Eucharist debate had an impact on Elizabethan romances. The second part 'Negotiating confessional conflict' provides a rereading of When You See Me You Know Me, exposing the processes of religious reform as an on-going means of mediating the new normality of confessional plurality. It examines the potential of the tragic form by a reading of the play The White Devil, and discusses the ideological fault line in the views of witchcraft. The book also shows that Henry V anticipates later sermons of John Donne that served to promote 'an interrogative conscience'.

Margret Fetzer

Introduction – Beginning Donne Good wee must love, and must hate ill, For ill is ill, and good good still, But there are things indifferent, Which wee may neither hate, nor love, But one, and then another prove, As wee shall finde our fancy bent. (‘Communitie’, ll. 1–6) Since 1921, the year of T. S. Eliot’s review of Grierson’s Metaphysical Lyrics and Poems of the Seventeenth Century, John Donne’s poetry has been of central interest for a large ‘Communitie’ of critics. That Donne’s writing is ‘good’ and should thus be loved, has rarely been disputed – when it

in John Donne’s Performances
Alexandra M. Block

 182 10 Formal experimentation and the question of Donne’s ecumenicalism Alexandra M. Block John Donne’s complex religious identity has long been a challenge to literary scholars. Born into a respected Catholic family, Donne left university without taking a degree, which suggests he was unwilling, as a young adult, to foreswear his faith. He converted to Protestantism at some point afterwards. He would, eventually, become an English churchman, achieving the success in the religious arena that eluded him during his secular career. Nevertheless, his Catholic

in Forms of faith
Joel M. Dodson

in Discipline and Punish and the first volume of The History of Sexuality; and to argue, in turn, that confessionalization might be seen as an enabling, rather than disabling, fiction of early modern religious writing and its criticism.1 Given the forms of faith we know literature assumed in early modern England, it is time to move the ‘creedal imperative’ beyond the procrustean strain of religious belief in the period.2 It is time to see confession as a theoretical imperative itself. I offer by way of example one of John Donne’s most important though under

in Forms of faith
John Donne, George Chapman and the senses of night in the 1590s
Susan Wiseman

7 ‘Did we lie downe, because ’twas night?’: John Donne, George Chapman and the senses of night in the 1590s Susan Wiseman Above the now lost bough of the rood, in the highest panel of the Doom picture in St Peter’s, Wenhaston, Christ judges the world, whose fate is spread below him. He is seated on a rainbow flanked by the sun to his right and the moon to his left.1 In the early 1500s the story of light and dark expressed in the representation of sun, moon and rainbow above darkness held a clear but also complex and evocative message concerning God’s power. The

in The senses in early modern England, 1558–1660
Spenser’s Busirane and Donne’s ‘A Valediction of my name, in the window’
Yulia Ryzhik

In ‘A Valediction of my name, in the window’, John Donne carves his signature with a diamond into the glass, a vitreous charm against the imminent separation of lovers: My name engrav’d herein Doth contribute my firmnesse to this glasse, Which, ever since that charme, hath beene As hard as that which grav’d it, was. 1 The poem’s central premise is that writing can both encrypt and summon a body. Displacing his

in Spenser and Donne
Stephen Orgel

Tintoretto, Portrait of a young man. John Donne, who cared and knew a good deal about art, was eighteen, even younger than Sidney, when he first had himself painted, probably by Hilliard. That painting has disappeared, but a version of it is preserved in the frontispiece to the 1635 edition of his Poems ( figure 10

in Spectacular Performances