John Donne: from rake to Christian


john donne

from wikipedia

My Norton Anthology can’t comprehend a true conversion, so it tends to explain John Donne’s experience with Christ in purely economic terms. He was born Catholic and as such was ill-favored in the new, Protestant England. In order for him to land some well-paying jobs, he needed to convert.

There is probably some truth to this. But on the main, it duffs the most dramatic shift in literature. Donne goes from erotic seduction poetry to striking poems about a passionate love for Christ. The dramatic turn-around in subject matter cannot simply be explained by the ludicrous fishing-for-better-employment theory. An insincere poet could not write so feelingly.

This is what the world does. Because they don’t understand a religious experience, they spin it off as some other sort of phenomenon.

Teaching poetry in Christian schools

I teach English at a Christian high school, but I loathe the Christian books because they cudgel the poor kids over the head with boorish didactic works which make kids’ eyes glaze over. But with the Norton Anthology, I had to encourage students to employ their analyzing capabilities and to “read between the lines.”

Do you understand conversion?

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5 responses to “John Donne: from rake to Christian

  1. Excellent point. In some ways, it’s fun being someone people can’t figure out!

  2. I still have my two Norton Anthologies. They are great references and I remember the poetry of John Donne.
    Leslie

  3. Fortunately we get to study Donne in English. I have students write about their thoughts on death after reading Donne’s sonnet. It opens discussion if death is a period or a comma.

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