John Donne's Poetry

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John Donne's Poetry

<p>The father of metaphysical poetry and innovator of the conversational sonnet, John Donne’s poetry has philosophical qualities and doubts which appeal to the contemporary reader, and help us frame

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The father of metaphysical poetry and innovator of the conversational sonnet, John Donne’s poetry has philosophical qualities and doubts which appeal to the contemporary reader, and help us frame our own suffering. In this course, suitable for both beginners and those familiar with his poetry, we take a close textual approach to a selection of poems, and situate them in Jacobean England, the Renaissance, and the religious turbulence of Donne’s lifetime. Poems will be provided each week, but a wide reading of Donne’s poems would be an asset.


COURSE OUTLINE

  • Donne 101: We begin with Donne’s biography, and the historical context which made being a Catholic in Jacobean England so difficult. We will then read and critique ‘Death be not Proud’.
  • The Conversational Sonnet: The sonnet form is an argument with twists and turns. We look at how Donne makes the form an intimate conversation in ‘If Poisonous Minerals’.
  • The Metaphysical Conceit: We look at the strange imagery Donne employs to communicate ideas beyond the physical in ‘Valediction Forbidding Mourning’ and the raunchy ‘Flea’.
  • Donne and Suffering: The man who said ‘Send not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee’ has quite a bit to say on the universality of suffering. We look at ‘No Man is an Island’ and ‘Hymn to God, my God in my Sickness’.
  • Donne and the Afterlife: Some quite complicated ideas about how Judgement Day works arise in ‘This is My Plays’ Last Scene' and At the Round Earth’s Imagined Corners, Blow'.
  • Donne and the Page: The Renaissance was a time that increasingly understood both the interiority of voice on the page, and how the written word might last forever. For our final class we examine ‘The Relic’.


PLANNED LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Knowledgably discuss poetic techniques and sonnet structure.
  2. Identify Jacobean, Renaissance and Catholic contextual values that shape Donne’s work.
  3. Understand and discuss various metaphysical themes and concerns in the poems.