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.
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