Chapter

“Intoxicated with Intimacy”: The Lyric Voice in John Donne's

Frederick J. Ruf

in Entangled Voices

Published in print March 1997 | ISBN: 9780195102635
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199853458 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195102635.003.0004
“Intoxicated with Intimacy”: The Lyric Voice in John Donne's

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In her study of autobiography, Janet Varner Gunn argues that the religious significance of the form “lies not in its literary function but in its anthropology,” that is, in its role in articulating and creating human experience. She also states that much literary discussion of autobiography serves to conceal its “strangeness” and “unruly behavior.” This chapter explores the possibilities and limitations of lyric autobiography through an examination of John Donne's Holy Sonnets to point out the further dimensions of autobiography's “unruliness.” Barbara Kiefer Lewalski said that the lyrics in Holy Sonnets are unified by “the Protestant paradigm of salvation in its stark, dramatic, Pauline terms,” moving through election, calling, adoption, sanctification, and glorification. If we attend to the voice speaking in Donne's Holy Sonnets, what can we say about that voice, and what can we extrapolate regarding lyric voices more generally? A primary characteristic of any lyric voice, and especially of Donne's lyric voice in these lyrics, is limitation.

Keywords: John Donne; Holy Sonnets; lyric; narrative; voice; Janet Varner Gunn; autobiography; salvation; calling; sanctification

Chapter.  4426 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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