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EN3514 Special Author John Donne

Summer Reading List (2014-15)

During the Summer Vacation, you are advised to get a copy of Robin Robbins' edition of the Complete Poems of John Donne (Longman, 2010). This is the set text for the course. The Library has six copies, and you will be expected to bring this edition, and only this edition, to class, where we will often discuss Robbins’ textual choices and material in his notes. This is also the only acceptable text to use when you prepare your assessed work for this unit. Should you revert to using the A J Smith (Penguin) text, or texts cut and pasted off the Luminarium site, your mark may well suffer if you discuss without noticing that there is an attribution problem poems that Robbins considers doubtfully Donne’s, or present quotations from texts which contain inferior or minimal editorial handling. The Luminarium compiler has improved her texts, which used to be based on a late Victorian edition of the poems, but it is not a suitably scholarly resource for your purposes. If you buy your own text of Robbins’ edition, then you can make your own annotations, place your post-it notes, etc. It is currently £19.99 on Amazon.

This summer would also be the time to read a biography of Donne. R. C. Bald’s John Donne: A Life gives all the facts. John Stubbs’ biography, Donne: The Reformed Soul (Penguin, 2007) can also be recommended, but it does perhaps register the pressure to make the biographical subject interesting for a commercial publishing firm. Stubbs, for instance, mentions early on that Donne’s family had personal bodily relics of Thomas More (one of his teeth). But by the end of the book, he cannot quite resist suggesting that Donne’s devoutly Catholic mother, who died earlier in the same year in which Donne himself died, 1631, had smuggled the head of Thomas More into Donne’s Deanery – as the Catholic skeleton rattling in Donne’s closet. The head had been long buried with More’s daughter Margaret.

You might also read John Carey’s book, John Donne: Life, Mind, and Art (Faber, 1981, second edition, 1990). Read it sooner rather than later: it offers a very compelling psycho-biographical reading. If you read it close in time to writing assessed work for this course, the invisible presence of John Carey will reach over your shoulder and start tapping at your keyboard. (You might regard this as very helpful indeed, but it is far better if you can see the author your own way.)


Bibliography EN3514 Special Author: John Donne




Two major projects are underway in relation to Donne’s works: the ‘Variorum’ edition of the poems, under the general editorship of Gary Stringer, and the new Oxford edition of the sermons.


Four volumes of the Variorum edition of the poems have been published:




Volume 2, The Elegies

Volume 6 The Anniversaries, and the Epicedes and Obsequies

Volume 7 Part 1 The Holy Sonnets

Volume 8 The Epigrams, Epithalamions, Epitaphs, Inscriptions, and Miscellaneous Poems


The Variorum edition aims to collect and digitise every 17th century manuscript variant, and apply a computerised stemmatics programme to deduce the full family tree of manuscripts, and therefore arrive at which readings are the most authoritative. It also aims to summarise the whole body of Donne scholarship.


Early this year (2014), the first volume of the projected 16 volumes of Donne’s sermons was published (David Colclough’s edition of the ‘Sermons preached at the court of Charles I’)




These are complex editorial projects, and the editions are best suited to the postgraduate researcher.




This brief bibliography is divided into i) general books and studies of particular topics and ii) studies of Donne.

Each list is by date of publication.


i) General books on the poetry of the period and topics within the poetry might include:


  • Martz, Louis L, The Poetry of Meditation (Yale University Press, 1954) ~ On religious verse, and the influence of St Ignatius Loyola’s Devotional Exercises.
  • Broadbent, John, Poetic Love (Chatto and Windus, 1964)
  • Perry, Antony T., Erotic Spirituality (University of Nebraska Press, 1980)
  • Shaw, Robert, The Call of God: the theme of vocation in the poetry of Donne and Herbert (Cambridge, Mass, 1981)
  • Parfitt, George, English Poetry of the 17th Century (Longman, 1985)
  • Parry, Graham, 17th Century Poetry: the Social Context (Hutchinson, 1985)
  • Clements, Arthur L., Poetry of Contemplation: John Donne, George Herbert, Henry Vaughan, and the modern period (State University of New York Press, 1990)
  • Gent, Lucy and Llewellyn, Nigel (eds.), Renaissance Bodies: The Human Figure in English Culture c1540-1660(London, Reaktion, 1990/1995). Read especially:
  • Ellen Chirelstein, ‘Lady Elizabeth Pope: the Heraldic Body’, a fascinating analogy to Donne’s Elegy XIX.
  • Corns, Thomas N., The Cambridge Companion to English poetry, Donne to Marvell (Cambridge, 1993)
  • Low, Anthony, The Reinvention of Love (Cambridge University Press, 1993) – includes an important discussion of Donne.
  • Summers, Claude J., and Pebworth, Ted-Larry, Renaissance Discourses of Desire (University of Missouri Press, 1993) - includes Stella P. Revard, ‘The Sapphic Voice in Donne’s Sappho to Philaenis’* and William Shullenberger, ‘Love as a spectator sport in John Donne’s poetry’. (*catch up with other recent gay/lesbian readings of this poem in Valerie Traub, ‘Recent Studies in Homoeroticism’ in the journal English Literary Renaissance Vol 30, Spring 2000)
  • James G Turner (ed), Sexuality and Gender in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, 1993). Includes Janel Mueller, ‘Troping Utopia: Donne’s brief for lesbianism’ and Katherine Eisaman Maus, ‘A Womb of his own: male Renaissance poets in the female body’.
  • Shami, Jeanne, Renaissance tropologies : the cultural imagination of early modern England  (2008)
  • Burt, Stephen, and Mikics, David, The art of the sonnet (Cambridge, Mass. ; London : Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2010). Includes accounts of "At the round earth's imagined corners" and "Oh, to vex me, contraries meet in one"
  • Guite, Malcolm, Faith, hope and poetry: theology and the poetic imagination (Farnham, England ; Burlington, VT : Ashgate, 2010)
  • Stelling, Lieke, Harald Hendrix, and Todd M. Richardson (eds), The Turn of the Soul: representations of religious conversion in early modern art and literature (Leiden: Brill, 2012)

ii) Studies of John Donne


To come to an understanding of Donne, you might best begin by reading some English Petrarchan sonnets. A sampling of Samuel Daniel’s Delia sequence in the Everyman Elizabethan Sonnets (ed. Evans rev. Booth): would give you an insight into the type of thing Donne was in artistic reaction against.

The first critical description of ‘metaphysical poetry’ remains highly interesting and relevant to our understanding. It was written by Dr Samuel Johnson in 1778, and published in his Prefaces, Biographical and Critical, to the Works of the English poets (1779-1781) in his life of Donne’s follower, Abraham Cowley. It is disconcerting to see lines from Donne which have been much admired in the late 20th century adduced to the contrivances of Cowley in illustration of the idiosyncrasies of the metaphysical manner.


20th Century Commentary


  • Robert Legouis, Donne the Craftsman (Henri Didier, Paris, 1928) - actually considers the forms and writing processes of the ‘Songs and Sonnets’.
  • J B Leishman, The Monarch of Wit (Hutchinson University Library, 1959). Leishman got in early and snaffled the best title for a book on Donne – it comes from lines in Carew’s elegy on Donne, ‘here lies a King, that rul’d as hee thought fit/ The universall Monarchy of wit’). It is still a useful book.
  • Gardner, Helen (ed), John Donne: A Collection of Critical Essays (Prentice-Hall, 1962).
  • Everett, Barbara, Donne, A London Poet (OUP, 1972).
  • Lewalski, Barbara K., John Donne’s Anniversaries and the Poetry of Praise (Princeton University Press, 1973).
  • Lovelock, Julian (ed.), Donne’s Songs and Sonnets: A Casebook (Macmillan, 1973).
  • Roston, Murray, The Soul of Wit: A Study of John Donne (Clarendon Press, 1974).
  • Roberts, John R. (ed.), Essential Articles for the study of John Donne’s Poetry (Hamden, Conn., Archon Books, 1975).
  • Smith, A J (ed), John Donne: The Critical Heritage (RKP, 1975).
  • Novarr, David, The Disinterred Muse: Donne’s texts and contexts (Cornell University Press, 1980). With Marotti, studies the manuscript circulation of Donne’s poems.
  • James Winny, A Preface to Donne (Longman, 1981).
  • John Carey, John Donne, Life, Mind and Art (Faber 1981/1990 2nd ed) ~ This is the compelling account of Donne, one of those rare books of criticism that keeps you turning the pages. Carey has read everything attentively, and has a brilliant gift for quotation. But the account is highly coloured: you will have to counteract the way that Carey will dominate your thinking about Donne. Sometimes one can turn to R. C. Bald’s magisterial and unslanted John Donne A Life (1970) to counteract the psycho-biographical reading with straight biographical facts. A related study by Carey, ‘Donne and Coins’ appeared in Carey, John (ed.), English Renaissance Studies presented to Dame Helen Gardner in honour of her seventieth birthday (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1986).
  • Hester, Thomas M., Kinde Pitty and Brave Scorn: John Donne’s Satires (Duke University Press, 1982).
  • Zunder, William, The Poetry of John Donne: Literature and culture in the Elizabethan and Jacobean Period (Harvester, 1982).
  • Marotti, Arthur F, John Donne, Coterie Poet (University of Wisconsin Press, 1986) ~ The fullest discussion of Donne’s poems in their early circulation.
  • Summers, Claude, and Pebworth, Ted-Larry, The Eagle and the Dove: re-assessing John Donne (University of Missouri Press, 1986).
  • Baumlin, James S., John Donne and the rhetoric of Renaissance Discourse (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1991).
  • Larsen, Deborah A, John Donne and 20th Century Criticism (Associated University Presses, 1996). Revealing guide to the critical debates about Donne, especially as prompted by T S Eliot.
  • Marotti, Arthur F, Critical Essays on John Donne (NY: G K Hall: Maxwell Macmillan International, 1994).
  • Hester, Thomas M. (ed.), John Donne’s ‘desire of more’: the subject of Anne More Donne in his poetry (Duke University Press, 1997) ~ Speculative!
  • Oliver, Paul M., Donne’s Religious Writing: a Discourse of Feigned Devotion (Longman, 1997).
  • Meakin, H. L., John Donne’s Articulation of the Feminine (Oxford, 1998) ~ the author focuses on gender, gives Donne some credit for moving towards ‘an ethics of sexual difference’ but fails him in the end as ‘shackled to the phallocentric tradition’.
  • Johnson, Jeffrey, The Theology of John Donne (D S Brewer, 1999). Not about the verse, but an important topic.
  • Colclough, David, ed., John Donne's professional lives (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2003)
  • Hurley, Ann Hollinshead, John Donne's poetry and early modern visual culture Selinsgrove, Penn.: Susquehanna University Press, c2005
  • Saunders, Ben, Desiring Donne: poetry, sexuality, interpretation (Cambridge, Mass.; London: Harvard University Press 2006)
  • Stubbs, John, Donne: the reformed soul (London: Penguin, 2007)
  • Sullican, Ceri, The rhetoric of the conscience in Donne, Herbert and Vaughan (Oxford; New York : Oxford University Press, 2008)
  • Fetzer, Margret, John Donne's performances: sermons, poems, letters and devotions (Manchester : Manchester University Press, 2010)
  • Shami, Jeanne (et.al.), The Oxford Handbook of John Donne (2011) ~ an important collection of scholarship, with a full presence of Gary Stringer and his team, who are producing the Donne Variorum.

On-line resources


Find Renaissance author web sites via ‘The Voice of the Shuttle’, the ‘Web Page for Humanities Research’; http://vos.ucsb.edu/shuttle/eng-ren.html


You will probably already be familiar with the Luminarium site: www.luminarium.org/renlit/

which has a John Donne sectionwww.luminarium.org/sevenlit/donne/

BUT Anniina Jokinen as the site creator made some very poor choices of copy text for her online versions of the poems. Improvements have been made, but her texts are simply not reliable.


Similarly, the LION database took its text of John Donne’s poems from editions older than that of Herbert Grierson established a reliable canon of the poems. This is why LION turns up lots of items which are simply not John Donne poems. I have tried to volunteer myself to edit the collection down, and even sent a list of ‘Dubia’ too them, but nothing has been done to delete them.


http://johndonnesociety.tamu.edu/ is the new home page of the John Donne Society and its journal (only the contents are available on-line), currently at http://www.csus.edu/org/donne 


http://www.global-language.com/donneframe.html offers a searchable Donne concordance on-line.



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