Ramie Targoff

in John Donne, Body and Soul

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print April 2008 | ISBN: 9780226789637
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226789781 | DOI:

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This chapter focuses on John Donne's letters, asking why his craving for intimacy takes the form of a longing to write and receive letters. For Donne, the letter was not simply a useful, if lesser substitute for actual personal contact, nor was it primarily a means of generating social connections that were otherwise outside his reach. Letters appear to have offered Donne a series of tantalizing possibilities, at once physical and metaphysical, which otherwise seemed to elude him. In letters, he felt he could overcome the problems of separation and absence that haunted him throughout his life, and could convey aspects of his body and soul to friends without needing to be physically present. In letters, Donne felt he could create physical and spiritual modes of intimacy that would endure beyond the immediate moment, and felt that he could “inanimate” dead matter—making the corpse of the paper come alive through the sheer act of writing.

Keywords: John Donne; letters; letter writing

Chapter.  10697 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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