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The Poetry of John Donne

5. Donne's Life and His Poetry

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In this module, we explore Donne’s life and think about the extent to which we use Donne’s poems to understand John Donne the man. In particular, we think about those poems where Donne takes on the persona of people obviously different to himself (‘Break of Day’, ‘Sappho to Philaenis’), before considering Donne’s magnificent final poem, ‘A Hymn to God the Father’.


In this course, we explore the poetry of John Donne, thinking in particular about poetic language and style, the issues that preoccupied him throughout his life and career, and the extent to which we can understand John Donne the man from his poetry. The course includes discussion of a number of Donne’s most famous poems, including both love poems (e.g. ‘The Flea’, ‘The Sun Rising’, ‘The Good-Morrow’, etc.) and his religious poems (e.g. ‘The Holy Sonnets’, ‘Hymn to God the Father’, etc.)


Anna Beer is a writer, lecturer and researcher who specialises in the literature and culture of sixteenth and seventeenth century England. She was Lecturer in Literature at the Department for Continuing Education at the University of Oxford between 2003 and 2010, and remains a Fellow of Kellogg College. She has published two literary biographies: Bess: The Life of Lady Raleigh, Wife to Sir Walter and, in celebration of the subject's quatercentenary, Milton: Poet, Pamphleteer and Patriot. Peter Ackroyd describes the latter as, among other things, "a persuasive reading of the power and complexity of Paradise Lost," while former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion esteems it "a reliable guide to nonspecialists" and "the anniversary present he [Milton] deserves."[2] Philip Pullman called it 'a beautifully clear account of a richly complex life...Fascinatingly vivid...It's the best narrative I've read of the life of our greatest public poet'. The first biography of Bess Ralegh was also received well: 'Anna Beer tells a fascinating story wonderfully well...A brilliant blend of biography, political narrative and social history'.

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APA style

Beer, A. (2018, August 15). The Poetry of John Donne - Donne's Life and His Poetry [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Beer, A. "The Poetry of John Donne – Donne's Life and His Poetry." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,

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