‘Ascending Humility’

Katrin Ettenhuber

in Donne's Augustine

Published in print July 2011 | ISBN: 9780199609109
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191729553 | DOI:
‘Ascending Humility’

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This chapter focuses in detail on Donne's most neglected text: the Essayes in Divinity (composed c.1614; published 1651) and marks the transition to the second part of the book: having presented a survey of Donne's reading in the first two chapters, the book now moves on to five detailed case studies. The Essayes are a series of Scripture meditations; through reading the first verses of Genesis and Exodus, Donne defines his sense of Christian identity and vocation. The main model of interpretation in the Essayes is Augustine's Confessions, a text which is constantly invoked for doctrinal and devotional guidance. The chapterer traces key Augustinian passages and charts their re-emergence both in the wider sphere of Renaissance devotional writing and in Donne's later career, in the Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (1624) and in his sermons. The Essayes serve as a self-conscious act of religious and interpretive initiation, which prepare for Donne's ordination in 1615.

Keywords: Essayes in Divinity; Scripture commentary; Confessions; Devotions upon Emergent Occasions; sermons; manuals of devotion; prosopopoeia

Chapter.  16520 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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