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date: 27 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

‘Interpretations of religious meaning have always been central to the criticism of certain sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English writers who engaged closely with the religious cultures and controversies of their day’. This article suggests that this statement is more applicable to George Herbert and John Donne than to any of their contemporaries. It aims to demonstrate that the critical fortunes of these two poets over the centuries have been dependent not only on changes in literary taste, but also on shifts in theological readings and devotional interests. The article falls into three parts, each defined by a chronological focus: the first locates Donne and Herbert in their seventeenth-century devotional cultures; the second examines the theological nature of later critical responses to their writings; and the third highlights the religious issues inherent in any interpretation of their poetry.

Keywords: religious meaning, John Donne, George Herbert, theological readings, devotional poetry

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