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date: 23 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter argues that the distinctive qualities of John Donne’s religious thought and temperament are revealed as much through the manner or expressive mode of his religious writing as they are through its matter or doctrinal content. To illustrate, the chapter analyses the rhetoric and prosody of Holy Sonnet 19 (‘Oh, to vex me’) in the light of two key contexts: Donne’s letters, poems, and prose works from his middle years (1606–14), and the religious and theological controversies of the same period, including fiercely argued doctrinal debates about the means of salvation and bitter religio-political disputes over the Oath of Allegiance. The chapter concludes by showing the degree to which Donne’s compelling union of dialectical reason and associative poesis in his religious writing both shares in and departs from literary traits and mentalities found in other religious writers of the period.

Keywords: John Donne, Holy Sonnets, versification, prosody, rhetoric, contrition, godly fear

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