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|Title:||The Structure of John Donne's Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions|
|Authors:||Kooistra, Peter John|
|Keywords:||English Language and Literature;English Language and Literature|
|Abstract:||<p>This thesis attempts to show that John Donne arranged his Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions according to a carefully considered, overall plan. A detailed study of shifts in theme, imagery, tone and style throughout the Devotions reveals patterns demonstrating that Donne brought all the stylistic and compositional skills he had as a writer to bear upon the creation of his book. the inadequacy of critical attention given to the Devotions' structure is an important cause of the confusing diversity of presently available scholarship. A secondary benefit of this structural analysis, then, is that it will help focus attention on the better aspects of this scholarship. <br /> Each of the twenty-three Devotions is composed of a Meditation, an Expostulation and a Prayer, but only in the most general terms is it possible to define these three sections as having a uniform nature throughout the book. The important changes that take place show that the Devotions were meant to be arranged into groups-of three, and this may be further arranged into a "three-six-six-three-three-two" pattern. This progression is based on the analogy of a Christian's life with the seven days that are outlined in Expostulation 14. The first three Devotions encompass matters pertaining to the first day, the day of God's visitation of Donne with sickness. The next six involve the temporary stabilization of the disease and Donne's close examination of his conscience. On this second day God affords Donne many helps: Devotions 4-6 deal with the aid of a single physician, and devotions 7-9 invo1 'Ie a 7':1u1 tip1icat ion of this aid. Devotions 10-12 and 13-15 deal with, respectively, a resurgence and an intensification of of Donne's illness, leading him momentarily to dispute God's mercy. However, he performs the duties of the third "day" by preparing himself for a receiving of God I s sacraments. This trial indeed prepares him for the fourth day, the day of his physical dissolution, which almost literally comes in Devotions 16-18 since he claims to die vicariously in the death of the man "for whom the bell tolls." Devotions 19-21 deal with the fifth day, or the day of a Christian's resurrection, which Donne links with his recovery from sickness. The last two Devotions deal with t11e weaknesses of body and soul, both of which are subject to relapses either into disease or sin. However, God's judgement (on the sixth day) has been manifested to Donne, and his sins have been "fully pardoned." With these last words of the Devotions Donne looks forward to the attainment of God's "everlasting Mercy," and an implied twenty-fourth Devotion may be postulated for this seventh, final day, opening out into eternity. Donne strongly suggests that the reader is to associate a possible twenty-fourth Devotion with this final day, since it would not only complete the series of tripartite groupings in the Devotions, but it would also constitute the last hour in God's single day that he speaks of in the introduction to the seven critical days: "Since a day 'is as a thousand yeres with thee, Let, O Lord, a day, be as a weeke to me; and in this one, let me consider seven daies, seven critical daies, and ,judge my selfe, that I be not judged by thee." (Expostulation 14) <br /><br /> Donne effects a unison of homiletic and devotional purposes (a feature of the more personal sermons of several Church Fathers) by using the “text” of his own experience, which is authored by God, as the basis for instruction to his readers. so many portions of the Devotions are similar enough to his sermons that there can be little doubt that the Dean of St. Paul's had his congregation continually in mind during the book's composition. This quality is reflected in the care Donne took in according every aspect of the Devotions to God and to the various forms that His author- ship takes. The precedents acknowledged for the Devotions are stories from the Bible (such as King Hezekiah's); Donne continually associates new aspects of his experience with that of Biblical characters (even his despairing moments echo Biblical precedents; his writing style is an attempted approximation of the Bible's "inexpressible texture"; the tripartite groupings in the Devotions reflect a devotion to the Christian Trinity; and the overall structure of the Devotions is reminiscent of God's seven-day creation of the world. God authors Donne's spiritual progress from the first day of his visitation to the sixth day, where Donne is on the verge of attaining the "Everlasting Saboth". As God's amanuensis, then, Donne takes pains to create an adequate structure in words for his perception of a divine, ordered guidance.</p>|
|Appears in Collections:||Open Access Dissertations and Theses|
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