1st Edition

John Donne’s Language of Disease Eloquent Blood

By Alison Bumke Copyright 2023

    John Donne’s Language of Disease reveals the influence of medical knowledge – a rapidly changing field in early modern England – on the poetry and prose of John Donne (1572–1631). This knowledge played a crucial role in shaping how Donne understood his everyday experiences, and how he conveyed those experiences in his work. Examining a wide range of his texts through the lens of medical history, this study contends that Donne was both a product of his period and a remarkable exception to it. He used medical language in unexpected and striking ways that made his ideas resonate with his original audience and that still illuminate his ideas for readers today.

    Conventions and Notes

    Introduction: Exploring Donne’s Dynamic Comparisons

    PART I 

    1 More Than Skin Deep: Dissecting Donne’s Imagery of Humours

    2 Cures and Currency in Donne’s Letters to Patrons

    3 Swollen Desires: Dropsy and Donne’s Writing


    4 ‘We May Have Recourse’: Describing Illness in Donne’s Devotions 

    5 ‘Sinfull Inough to Infect’: Donne’s Imagery of Contagion

    6 ‘Holy Perfume’: The Fragrance of Cures in Donne’s Sermons 

    Conclusion: ‘How Lame a Picture’: Depicting the Sick Body




    Alison Bumke is Assistant Professor of Seventeenth-Century Literature and Drama at the University of Nottingham.