Returning to John Donne  book cover
1st Edition

Returning to John Donne

ISBN 9780367879105
Published December 12, 2019 by Routledge
278 Pages

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Book Description

Collected in this volume are Achsah Guibbory’s most important and frequently cited essays on Donne, which, taken together, present her distinctive and evolving vision of the poet. The book includes an original, substantive introduction as well as new essays on the Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, the Songs and Sonnets, and the subject of Donne and toleration. Over the course of her career, Guibbory has asked different questions about Donne but has always been concerned with recovering multiple historical and cultural contexts and locating Donne’s writing in relation to them. In the essays here, she reads Donne within various contexts: the early modern thinking about time and history; religious attitudes towards sexuality; the politics of early modern England; religious conflicts within the church. While her approach has always been historicist, she has also foregrounded Donne’s distinctiveness, showing how (and why) he continues to speak powerfully to us now. Presented together here, with reflections on the trajectory of her engagement with Donne, Achsah Guibbory illuminates Donne’s understanding that erotic, spiritual, and political issues are often intertwined, and reveals how this understanding resonates in our own times.

Table of Contents

Part 1 Time and History: John Donne: the idea of decay.  A sense of the future: projected audiences of Donne and Jonson.  Part 2 Love: John Donne.  'Oh, Let Mee Not Serve So': the politics of love in Donne's Elegies.  Donne, Milton, and holy sex.  'The Relique', The Song of Songs, and Donne's Songs and Sonets.  Fear of 'loving more': death and the loss of sacramental love.  Depersonalization, disappointment, and disillusion.  Part 3 Religion: Donne's religion: Montagu, Arminianism, and Donne's sermons, 1624-1630. Donne's religious poetry and the trauma of grace.  Donne and apostasy.  Donne, Milton, Spinoza and toleration: a cross-confessional perspective.

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Achsah Guibbory is Ann Whitney Olin Professor of English at Barnard College, Columbia University, USA. A past president of the John Donne Society and the Milton Society of America, she edited The Cambridge Companion to John Donne (Cambridge, 2006) and is the author of Ceremony and Community from Herbert to Milton (Cambridge, 1998) and Christian Identity, Jews, and Israel in Seventeenth-century England (Oxford, 2010).


Returning to John Donne by Achsah Guibbory collects Guibbory’s essays on Donne written over the past thirty years. The book also includes three new essays: one on Donne’s Devotions considers the way in which, for Donne, the transcendental inheres in the physical and the body; an essay on Donne’s erotic poems discusses Donne’s strategies of detachment and his sense of disappointment over sexual experience; and an essay on Donne’s poetry, Pseudo-Martyr, and his Devotions explores Donne’s contribution to religious toleration, especially in his concerns with persecution, conscience, and conformity as part of the history of religious toleration. Most provocatively, Guibbory places Donne in conversation with Milton and Spinoza, showing how all three struggled with the need for religious liberty and peaceful society.

Graham Hammill, SEL Renaissance review, (Winter 2016), p. 193-241

Achsah Guibbory’s Returning to John Donne is the gathered fruit of over four decades of reading, thinking, and writing about Donne.

Russell M. Hillier, Renaissance Quarterly, VOLUME LXIX, NO. 2, 2016

This book usefully pulls Guibbory’s work on Donne together into one volume, making essential reading for anyone interested in Donne, or more generally in the study of literature and religion in the early modern period.

Jennifer Clement, Parergon, Volume 33, Number 3, 2016, p. 236

Achsah Guibbory can without hesitation be identified as one of the most influential voices in Donne studies today, with an admirable record of reaching scholarly, student, and generalist audiences.

Daniel Starza Smith, Cercles, 2016