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date: 08 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Donne's idea of absolutism is the essence of this article. Like many questions, that of Donne's absolutism hinges on definition. If one adopts the strong version favoured by Glen Burgess and Conrad Russel, for whom it means royal legislative sovereignty — the position that the king can himself make law and impose taxes without Parliament — then it seems unlikely Donne was an absolutist. Absolutism so defined attracted little support in early Stuart England; even James abjured it once south of the border. Yet it is scarcely a non-issue in Donne criticism, where ‘absolutism’ has been a fighting word since 1981, when John Carey invoked ‘Donne, the absolutist’, echoed two years later by Jonathan Goldberg. In turning to the question of Donne's absolutism, one needs to keep in mind both that the relevant distinctions are often between shades of grey and also that against certain backgrounds some shades of grey clash.

Keywords: Donne, absolutism, Jonathan Goldberg, John Carrey, Donne's absolutism, Stuart England

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