The Body is His Book: John Donne’s Sacramental Poetics
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This thesis explores the spiritual arc of John Donne’s early lyric poetry through the lens of the Protestant Reformation. Drawing on the work of Max Weber, I situate Donne in a post-Reformed cultural environment with which his strenuous Catholic upbringing clashes, creating a rupture in consciousness from which a distinctive, though often paradoxical religious persona emerges. The decline of a particularly tactile sense of Catholic sacramentalism and the rise of a more transcendental Protestant mode of scriptural intercourse causes Donne to attempt a poetic synthesis of body and soul in order to reconcile the extremes of his own divided religious loyalties. Following a developmental trajectory from Donne’s earliest Elegies and Satires through the Songs and Sonnets and ending with a treatment of the Holy Sonnets, it will be shown that Donne forged a poetic via media between his own Catholic past and the growing Anglican consensus in early modern England.