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John Donne's "Songs and Sonets": In the light of Renaissance traditions

Linda Ann Schmidt, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This dissertation examines the question of how far the secular poems of John Donne may be didactic and may more especially participate in moral, spiritual, and allegorical traditions of Interpretation. Chapter one, a brief review of recent criticism, shows that such a quest is not quixotic. Chapter two examines the classical traditions of allegorized and moralized literature which a man of John Donne's education would have known, beginning with Plato's philosophical writings and continuing through to the works of Plotinus and Ficino. I also trace the related traditions of interpreting and imitating Ovid's erotic writings. Chapter three follows the Canticles tradition and the late medieval and Renaissance traditions of writing poetic sequences in the manner of Dante and Petrarch. Chapter four presents a century of emblem scholarship in relation to the traditions of allegorized and moralized literature. Chapter five examines three secular poems to exemplify and test the relevance of the traditions previously discussed. Chapter five demonstrates that an erotic love poem can teach even though it seems designed to entertain its coterie readership. Chapter six concludes by stating that the classical, Christian, and emblem traditions influenced John Donne's production of moral literature, while his use of emblematic language enabled him to entertain and challenge his readership to unravel the lesson he presented.

Subject Area

British and Irish literature|Art History

Recommended Citation

Schmidt, Linda Ann, "John Donne's "Songs and Sonets": In the light of Renaissance traditions" (1996). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI9623640.