English 29

Major Writers: John Donne

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2020 Marno, David
TTh 5-6:30

Book List

Donne, John : The Complete Poetry


Much of John Donne’s poetry speaks from the bedroom (“And now good-morrow to our waking souls”); much of the rest, from the grave (“When my grave is broke up again”). The voice, however, is always the same: morbid yet lively, tender but tyrannical, intimate and gregarious, funny and moving in equal measures. It is a voice often relegated to the margins of English survey courses, overshadowed by those of Shakespeare and Milton, two authors who bookend Donne’s life. In this course, we’ll see that Donne’s poetry and prose yield handsome returns if we pay them the attention they demand. Their author was a character of extremes and contradictions: a “great visitor of Ladies” in his youth, he later became the foremost preacher in London and poured his considerable intellectual and rhetorical talents into writing some of the most arresting sermons in the English language. It is precisely in articulating and exploring extremes and contradictions that his writings offer not only an insight into life’s possibilities in early modern England, but a perspective on literature’s role in negotiating individuality and society.

Readings include Donne’s erotic and love poetry, his satires on early modern social life, and his religious verse; in addition, we will also read brief selections from his sermons and letters. Assignments will include a brief assignment focusing on a poetic device, two short essays, and a final exam. A. J. Smith's Penguin edition is the most affordable option including all of Donne's English poetry, but if you already own another major edition (Carey's Oxford, Robbins's Longman, etc.) you may use it for this course. Additional readings will be posted in bCourses. 

Other Recent Sections of This Course

Back to Semester List