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The Poetry of Immanence

The Poetry of Immanence: Sacrament in Donne and Herbert

Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 224
  • Book Info
    The Poetry of Immanence
    Book Description:

    In this extensive study of two of the most celebrated seventeenth-century religious poets, Robert Whalen examines the role of sacrament in the formation of early modern religious subjectivity.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8205-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Prologue
    (pp. xi-2)

    James Joyce once asked his brother Stanislaus whether there might be ‘a certain resemblance between the mystery of the Mass’ and what happens inDubliners.  ‘I mean that I am trying,’ wrote Joyce, ‘to give people some kind of intellectual pleasure or spiritual enjoyment by converting the bread of everyday life into something that has a permanent artistic life of its own ... for their moral, and spiritual uplift.’ Though Joyce’s literary Mass differs in meaning and scope from the Holy Communion experienced by the Renaissance devotional writer, the idea that such ordinary daily life as that portrayed inDubliners...

  5. INTRODUCTION The Eucharist and the English Reformation
    (pp. 3-21)

    Hoc meum corpus est.Thought to be instituted by Jesus and therefore of powerful ritual appeal, the Eucharist in the Renaissance long had held a central place in Christian life and worship. As is true of any important aspect of the faith, interest in and controversy over the precise nature of the sacrament are not exclusive to the tumultuous Reformation. Indeed, the various positions staked out and defended by the magisterial reformers derived from a centuries-old debate.

    The febrile theological discussions of the English Reformation tended to pit reformed or ‘true’ piety against ‘popish’ idolatry – or, to attenuate that...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Secular Verse of the Religious Man: Donne and Sacrament at Play
    (pp. 22-60)

    Donne applies sacrament both analogically and formatively to a wider area of concern than has been adequately recognized. Theresa M. DiPasquale’s is the first book-length study of sacrament in Donne and is particularly valuable for its treatment of the secular verse. Her examination of the relationship between sacred and profane concerns, however, is limited in scope, focusing almost exclusively on Donne’s response to the Petrarchan tradition. Perhaps because she begins by examining the sacred poems, DiPasquale tends to read her conclusions about the vexing issue of Donne’s confessional identity back into die earlier work. That she attenuates the expansiveness of...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Sacrament and Grace
    (pp. 61-82)

    It is reasonable to expect that an investigation of sacramental topoi in Donne’s poetry would find the sacred verse more yielding of relevant material than the profane. Donne proves that assumption to be erroneous. The abundance of sacramental imagery and allusion in the secular verse relative to that of the divine poems is startling. How are we to account for this? Perhaps the secular poet, because concerned ostensibly with matters nonreligious, can be more cavalier in his handling of sacred ideas than can the devotional poet. Donne’s secular audience, moreover, may have been but a small circle of friends and...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Eating the Word: Donne’s 1626 Christmas Sermon
    (pp. 83-109)

    In ‘A Hymn to Christ, at the Author’s last going into Germany,’ Donne’s dismissal of his talents, along with the ‘Fame, Wit, Hopes (false mistresses)’ (28) they afford, is solemnized in a sacramental commitment to his new vocation, a poetic self-Ordination. The occasion is Donne’s chaplaincy on the earl of Doncaster’s diplomatic embassy, 1619–20, and anticipates his promotion to Dean in 1621. The denial here of artistic autonomy, a requisite part of his devotional strategy, is, as in ‘The Cross,’ both eloquent and disingenuous. Recalling ‘The Calrne’ and its sailors who ‘on the hatches as on Altars lye /...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Heart’s Altar: Herbert and Presence
    (pp. 110-126)

    If Donne managed to advance a Calvinism compatible with his enthusiasm for sacrament and ceremony, he did so by downplaying and even attacking the predestinarian extremism latent within Reform theology. The potentially dichotomous relationship between predestinarian doctrine and the ritual is evident particularly in his assertion about the sacrament not being a lottery. So explicit a caveat as that found in the 1626 Christmas sermon – an otherwise subtle reconciliation of ceremonial and puritan pieties – derives from the need to confront an issue that had troubled the Elizabethan church, and that for Donne and other moderate English Calvinists in...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Sacramental Puritanism: Herbert’s English via media
    (pp. 127-148)

    Undoubtedly a keen proponent of the church’s sacramental policies and practices, Herbert nonetheless cautioned against an overly enthusiastic regard for the material trappings of ritual and ceremony. At issue is conflict between, on the one hand, the vision of a church whose collective good consists in public, ceremonial conformity under episcopal discipline and, on the other, a puritan enthusiasm which locates true religious piety in the private and rarefied communion of God and individual. Controversy over the material extent andmodusof divine presence in the Eucharist, then, is of no little consequence for the perceived role of institutional media...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Poetry and Self: The Eucharistic Art of Devotion
    (pp. 149-167)

    The invitation to receive sacraments is ultimately an invitation to identify with their source, to commune with the Christ whose death and atoning work they proclaim. Though sometimes sacerdotal in emphasis, Herbert’s sacramental images are often presented in surprisingly familiar guise and thereby facilitate an understanding of the Incarnation as rendering immanent and intimate that which is otherwise remote. This colloquializing of the ceremonial is part of Herbert’s broader design, namely, to envision human intimacy with God through identification with Christ, the raison d’être of both devotional and sacramental enterprises. As viewed through a ceremonial lens, Herbert’s devotional efforts avoid...

  12. CONCLUSION Sacramental Poetics
    (pp. 168-178)

    Commenting on Herbert’s eating images, Heather Ross observes that ‘it is through indulgence in the senses that one transcends them and finds God, whereas it is through the repression and denial of our senses, our appetites, that we find ourselves.’¹ If hyperbole, the statement nonetheless is a frightening vision of where a devotional piety stripped of sacrament, ceremony, liturgy, and other universalizing features of religious worship might lead. However inward Donne’s and Herbert’s devotional enthusiasms, both recognized the importance of incorporating ceremonial forms within the framework of prayer, meditation, and homily. Their efforts to establish avia mediabetween sacramental...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 179-198)
  14. Works Cited
    (pp. 199-208)
  15. Index
    (pp. 209-216)