Publication Date


Degree Type

Master of Arts


This study examines personalism in John Donne's art: to what extent his poems are a product of his personality over and above conscious invention and artifice. It argues that Donne writes the way he does because, for the most part, he fails to attain distance from his work. The subjects that he writes about regularly are straight from his own life, and his take on them is highly personal. This paper brings in some biographical details but in general is concerned with scrutinizing Donne's writings in order to understand his imagination. Its primary method is to trace the repetition, resonance, and echoes of words, ideas, and themes throughout Donne's opus. Donne uses the same word or phrase repeatedly throughout his writings to dissect a single idea, so this essay discusses letters and sermons at the same time as love poetry and divine poetry. All are the product of a single imagination, and no genre necessarily precludes personalism. The first chapter looks at Donne's approach to art. Because he rarely writes explicitly about art itself, his approach must be reconstructed from his work. An inter-chapter follows, examining the effect of apostasy on Donne's work. The second chapter treats Donne's memories of the past that appear frequently in his poems and prose. The third chapter shows how Donne's formal invention is itself a product of his irrepressible personality, and the fourth chapter looks at his uses of argument and conceit and examines the structure and sources of some of his ideas.


English Language and Literature