Wholly Sonnet: The Implications of Play Between Speech and Writing in John Donne's Poetry


Lee Posthuma

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One of the most highly acclaimed and studied Metaphysical poets of the Renaissance period, John Donne fashions poems, specifically his Holy Sonnets, which 'speak' with great intensity, ingenuity, and diversity to the mind and soul. The tension between the apparent mimesis of speech in his writing and the implications of the poem's written nature heightens with a close grammatical analysis of Donne?s poetics and historical context. In conjuncture I have researched linguistic theory, specifically that of Jacques Derrida in Of Grammatology. Beginning with a close-reading of Donne?s Holy Sonnet ?Batter My Heart,? my research delves into the written and spoken aspects of individual poetic aspects (such as meter, form, rhyme) as they inform the overall oral/literary dichotomy. It is with Derrida?s insistence on the importance of contextualization in mind (as what is ?outside the text? becomes what is inside the text also, and what is inside the text is also external) that I turn to the historical context out of which Donne?s poetics arose in order to more fully flesh out the implications between writing and speech; pivotal to an understanding of the dynamics in his poetry, is an analysis of shifting Renaissance theology, politics, and language. This masterfully written and passionately cried poem of supplication, this plea for physical and spiritual violence and desire for the end of violence, with the wholeness of its irreducibly polemic parts and the holiness in its blasphemous delivery, at once goes beyond speech and writing and culminates in their melding.


Martha Ronk




Anderson Fund Grant

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