The Body as His Book: The Unification of Spirit and Flesh in John Donne's Holy Sonnets

UNCA Author/Contributor (non-UNCA co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Kelli Danielle Hober (Creator)
University of North Carolina Asheville (UNCA )
Web Site:
Evan Gurney

Abstract: This paper examines how John Donne, the English writer, uses spirit and flesh in his poetry. Donne, who wrote during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, often presents his readers with a puzzling picture of sensual imagery combined with spiritual language. By considering the theological and cultural contexts of his religious world, such as the shift in England from Roman Catholicism to Protestantism, this essay interrogates the recurrent overlaps between spiritual and sensual meanings in Donne’s work. It will also attend to several scriptural and literary traditions, from the model of the psalmist, or the Song of Songs, to contemporary developments throughout England and Europe in sonnet writing. Careful attention to these scriptural and literary models reveals one of the primary functions of Donne’s erotic language: the sensual imagery in the Holy Sonnets offers a powerful mode of expressing his spiritual longing and desired relationship with God.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2019
John Donne, English Author, Poetry, Theology, Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Song of Songs, Holy Sonnets

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