The devotion

Kate Narveson

in The Oxford Handbook of John Donne

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780199218608
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

The devotion

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  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)
  • Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)



A ‘devotion’ generally consisted of meditation and prayer. The term was used loosely during the seventeenth century and had no stable referent in terms of form, but devotional writing had developed a number of characteristic features. Its structure reflected the purpose of meditation: to awaken the heart to sin, repentance, and desire for God. This article focuses on the aspect and importance of devotion in John Donne's poetry. A devotion's voice was generic: because it was assumed that any particular Christian's experience conformed to a general godly pattern, devotions did not offer immediate self-expression but rather voiced the meditator's experience in well-established theological terms. Devotional affect was to be based on right understanding, with a resultant blurring of the line between expression and instruction. Within each devotion, Donne's hermeneutic proceeds in stages enacted in the sequence of meditation, expostulation, and prayer. The meditations show the speaker as observer of his condition.

Keywords: devotion; meditation; hermeneutics; theological terms; expostulation

Article.  4932 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800) ; Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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