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Holy Delight: Typology, Numerology, and Autobiography in Donne's "Devotions upon Emergent Occasions"

Holy Delight: Typology, Numerology, and Autobiography in Donne's "Devotions upon Emergent Occasions"

Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 208
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    Holy Delight: Typology, Numerology, and Autobiography in Donne's "Devotions upon Emergent Occasions"
    Book Description:

    Composed on the occasion of the poet's near-fatal bout with typhus in 1623, the Devotions contains the essential germ of John Donne's mature thought, embodied in obscurely structured verse/prose divisions. Because of its seeming digressiveness, critics have struggled to understand this most significant of Renaissance texts as a whole. Kate Gartner Frost, however, shows that the Devotions, which combines odd bits of natural history, personal life-data, quotations from scripture, and descriptions of unpleasant medical nostrums with personal religious outpourings, is a unified work belonging to the tradition of English devotional literature and spiritual autobiography from Augustine onward. Frost examines how Donne patterned his work on models and structures that allowed the blending of chronology, experience, anecdote, and insight into the fullness of extended metaphor reflecting the human condition. Donne's use of biblical typology is treated, as well as his adherence to a poetics rooted in pre-Copernican cosmology, which relies on underlying spatial structures. Finally, Frost reveals the actual numerological structures present in the Devotions and addresses the problem of discursive reading in relation to spatially organized premodern works.

    Originally published in 1991.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6137-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations and Charts
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Chapter I THE DEVOTIONS AND THE TRADITION OF DEVOTIONAL LITERATURE We Take into Our Meditation the Slippery Condition of Man
    (pp. 3-14)

    At the time of his bout with typhus in 1623, Donne, as dean of St. Paul’s and royal chaplain to James I, was well established as a London preacher. His secular career and most of his major poetry lay some years behind him. Immersed in the duties of his ministry and the composition of the more than 150 sermons that form an important part of his literary legacy, he could be counted among the foremost divines of his day. TheDevotions, composed during that illness and published immediately upon his recovery, displays his finest powers. Providing a remarkable index to...

    (pp. 15-38)

    Some three weeks before his death, wasted by stomach cancer, Donne mounted the pulpit of St. Paul’s for his last sermon. There, a barely erectmemento mori, he told his audience:

    Wee have a winding sheete in our Mothers wombe, which growes with us from our conception, and wee come into the world, wound up in thatwinding sheet, for wee come toseeke a grave; And as prisoners discharg’d of actions may lye for fees; so when thewombehath discharg’d us, yet we are bound to it bycordesof flesh, by such astring, as that wee...

  7. Chapter III PERSONAL AND POLITICAL TYPOLOGY IN THE DEVOTIONS A Type and Earnest of thy Gracious Purpose
    (pp. 39-77)

    Essential to the “construing” of the self in the tradition of spiritual autobiography—a literary urge to self-statement that prompted Dante to paint an essentially scribal persona in theVita Nuova—is the reflecting of the author’s identity in the mirror of literary type. The choice of Hezekiah for such a function goes far toward explaining the problem of publication which has for so long clouded the reputation of theDevotions. “It might bee enough,” Donne says in his “Epistle Dedicatory,” “thatGodhath seene my Deuotions.” And there are those who would agree with all but his use of...

  8. Chapter IV DONNE AND THE TRADITION OF NUMBER SYMBOLISM Our Creatures Are Our Thoughts
    (pp. 78-105)

    The long tradition of spiritual autobiography, marked as it was by the use of typology, fictive devices, and deliberate structure, was inevitably affected by the intellectual and scientific changes that stemmed from the Renaissance and radically altered the face of Western culture. Chief among these was the so-called Copernican revolution: No longer could the individual place himself within a coherent moral and spiritual structure; no longer could he see his life played out on a recognizable stratum of the universal hierarchy; no longer was one’s very physical existence reflected in and magnified by the speculum of correspondences that composed the...

  9. Chapter V STRUCTURAL SIGNIFICANCE IN THE DEVOTIONS An Eternity of Threescore and Ten Years
    (pp. 106-160)

    That Donne’s book is more than casually structured has been attested to by both its author and at least one of his contemporaries. In his letter accompanying the proofs sent to Sir Robert Carr, Donne announced his intention of putting “the meditations had in my sicknesse, into some such order, as may minister some holy delight.”¹ The “Epistle Dedicatory” to the Devotions and the correspondence accompanying presentation copies of the book indicate the directions in which the reader might look to discern that order. Moreover, that Donne was in the habit of paying studious attention to the structure of at...

  10. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  11. Chapter VI AN AFTERWORD To Discharge Myself of Myself
    (pp. 161-166)

    In the years since its publication, theDevotions Upon Emergent Occasionshas suffered more than its share of neglect due to changing religious sensibility and literary taste, the inseparable coils of which have served during the last three and a half centuries either to bind its author’s temples with laurel or, until recently, to tether the work to the ecclesiastical bookshelf. How is one to come to terms with this (to the modern eye) very difficult book? Are we to respond merely to those vibrations moving each way free that have so enamored our century of Donne’s poetry, despite its...

    (pp. 167-170)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 171-178)