Literature and Sacrament: The Sacred and the Secular in John Donne

By Theresa M. DiPasquale

A study of the poetics of Donne’s secular and religious poetry in the context of 17th-century theories of representation and reception.

ISBN: 9780227679678


This elegant and scholarly study places Donne’s secular and religious poetry in the context of theories of representation and reception brought into 17th-century popular culture by the Reformation debate on the Christian sacraments. DiPasquale sheds new light on the poetics of the period, as well as giving fresh and detailed readings of some of Donne’s poems.

The author considers the body of scholarship on Donne and on English Protestantism, as well as primary sources, in her extensive examination of how Donne’s definition of the reading process affected his practice. The poet, deeply engaged in the theological debates of his time, saw the written word as visible sign, the poet as minister of that sign, and the reader as receiver of it.

Praised in scholarly review as the best single-author study of Donne’s poetry for a decade, Literature and Sacrament will be required reading for all students and scholars of Donne, of religion and literature, and of the English Reformation.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 364

Trade Information JGEN

About the Author

Dr Theresa DiPasquale is Assistant Professor of English at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. A member of the Modern Language Association and the John Donne Society, she has contributed to several scholarly journals.


Editorial Note
List of Abbreviations

Part I: Devotional Poetry
1. Sacramental Crossing
2. “Deigne at My Hands”
3. Cunning Elements and Artful Turns

Part II: Secular Poetry
4. Towards an Anti-Petrarchan Love-Religion: “Aire and Angels”
5. Donne’s Catholic Petrarchans
6. “The Flea” as Profane Eucharist
7. Ways of Having Donne
8. Equivocal Devotion

Afterword: Conveying Donne
Appendix: The Doctrine of Eucharistic Sacrifice


Endorsements and Reviews

Distinguished by extensive and careful scholarship, clear and effective style, and intelligent focus on the actual substance of Donne’s poetry. Raises questions pertinent to the understanding of Donne and his age and argues rationally and lucidly. Her treatment of several verse epistles is exceptionally good. The general argument illuminates new depths of particular poems while allowing us to see them in relation to the poet’s entire oeuvre. DiPasquale has compelled me to reconsider all the issues that she raises. Should be read by every Donne scholar and recommended to advanced students not only for the information and insights on the poet but also as a model of what literary scholarship should be.
Christianity and Literature

Significant insights. Most highly recommended for undergraduates and academics.

There is much of value in DiPasquale’s work. Her thesis is cogently argued and amply illustrated. A noteworthy addition to Donne studies as DiPasquale articulately gives us much to ponder regarding the sacramental nature of Donne’s sacred and secular poetry.
Seventeenth-Century News

As a work of scholarship it is impeccable … it is extremely illuminating.
Journal of Theological Studies