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date: 06 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This article focuses on the expression of desperate ambition in Donne's writings. For over four centuries the question of Donne's ambition has divided critics. Even when most narrowly conceived — as the zealous pursuit of employment and status at court and in the church — the extent and nature of Donne's social and professional aspirations hold a peculiar fascination for his readers. A brief survey of bibliographies of criticism, covering the period 1598–2008, turns up over a hundred essays, articles, and books that touch on the disputed role played by desire for preferment in Donne's life and work. This article's first and longest section offers an analytic survey of the debate over Donne's motives, paying particular attention to influential interventions by Edmund Gosse and John Carey. More than forty direct references to social, political, and religious ambition and its cognates in Donne's writing reveal a varied yet coherent pattern of attitudes to the concept.

Keywords: Donne's writings, Edmund Gosse, John Carey, religious ambition

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