John Donne and martyrdom

Altman, Shanyn (2017) John Donne and martyrdom. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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This thesis contends that John Donne, who was writing at a time when popular martyrologies dominated the nature of religious thought in England, redefines the significance and parameters of martyrdom in defending the Jacobean oath of allegiance. Emphasising the centrality of Donne’s preordination prose to his religious and political thought, the argument is divided into three chapters:
1. Donne: Conformist and Christian
This chapter contends that Donne’s views on religious assurance ran against the grain of contemporary martyrologies, and that he sought to preserve the capacity of a doubting conscience and thus circumscribe the grounds by which one might be able to claim genuine martyrdom – while simultaneously challenging the recourse to one of the ways that the state could be imperilled in its defence of true, Christian religion.
2. Resisting Resistance: Donne’s Case against Church Militancy
Arguing against the popular view that Donne’s condemnation of the Society of Jesus is a reaction to the suffering he witnessed within his own family, this chapter places Donne’s anti-Jesuitism within a literary and historical tradition which sought to overturn the common precept that acts of resistance against the state could lead to martyrdom.
3. Disassociating Death and Martyrdom: Donne’s Unnoble Death
This chapter examines the ways in which Donne challenges the preconception that the martyr is required to seal his or her doctrine with blood, and argues that he does so by explicating the following arguments: first, that death is comforting rather than frightful, and consequently that the act of bringing death upon oneself is not heroic but an expression of the natural desire to alleviate one’s suffering; second, that the deaths of those who provoke the state through disobedience are pseudo-martyrs, and that pseudo-martyrdom is a sinful form of suicide; and, finally, that exemplary figures such as Christ and Samson are, in fact, self-homicides, but that their martyrdoms are determined by their glorification of God rather than by their deaths.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > English
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR0161 By period > PR0401 Modern > PR0421 Elizabethan era (1550-1640)
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 25 May 2017 11:27
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 15:49

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