Article

Do Donne's writings express his desperate ambition?

Hugh Adlington

in The Oxford Handbook of John Donne

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780199218608
Published online September 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199218608.013.0059

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

 Do Donne's writings express his desperate ambition?

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This article focuses on the expression of desperate ambition in Donne's writings. For over four centuries the question of Donne's ambition has divided critics. Even when most narrowly conceived — as the zealous pursuit of employment and status at court and in the church — the extent and nature of Donne's social and professional aspirations hold a peculiar fascination for his readers. A brief survey of bibliographies of criticism, covering the period 1598–2008, turns up over a hundred essays, articles, and books that touch on the disputed role played by desire for preferment in Donne's life and work. This article's first and longest section offers an analytic survey of the debate over Donne's motives, paying particular attention to influential interventions by Edmund Gosse and John Carey. More than forty direct references to social, political, and religious ambition and its cognates in Donne's writing reveal a varied yet coherent pattern of attitudes to the concept.

Keywords: Donne's writings; Edmund Gosse; John Carey; religious ambition

Article.  6386 words. 

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

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