Tag Archives: John Donne

The Limitations of Cerebral Teaching

Teaching literature must be more than just a cerebral affair.

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A Bright Torch Shines to Show the Way

John Donne’s “Ascension” captures the paradoxes of the resurrection and ascension.

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Magnificent Women in the Sick Room

Tolstoy shows us deathbed vigils can spur us to a deeper engagement with life.

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Poetry Needed to Understand Trinity

John Kennedy advocated poetry to avoid arrogance, which is good advice when it comes to understanding the Trinity.

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Jesus Lies Enclosed but Fills All Place

John Donne’s poem on the Nativity shows us a way out of our imprisoned existence.

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Art Goes Where Humans Can’t

A dying professor in Gail Godwin’s novel “The Good Husband” turns to John Donne’s “Second Anniversary” to comfort her.

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Using Donne to Defend Same Sex Marriage

John Donne’s impatience in “The Canonization” could be that of same sex couples who want to get married and wonder about all the fuss.

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A Spurned Lover’s Revenge Fantasy

A recent Kinsey study reporting that men prefer cuddling and women prefer sex got me thinking about John Donne’s strange “you’ll be sorry” poem “The Apparition.”

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Wilt Thou Forgive My Sin of Fear?

Donne’s last question is whether God will forgive Donne’s lack of complete faith in Him.

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No Man Is an Island (Not Even Revis)

New York Jet Darrelle Revis may be single man island who can shut down any receiver who comes near, but ultimately he must acknowledge, like John Donne, that no man is an island.

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Should Death Be Proud or Not?

John Donne               Last December, in writing on Margaret Edson’s play W;t, I noted that I didn’t think John Donne’s famous sonnet “Death Be Not Proud” would be very useful in helping someone handle death.  (The dying Donne scholar in W;t doesn’t turn to it.)  Since then, a friend pointed out that John Gunther’s 1949 book […]

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Donne as an Aid to Teenage Angst

Giulio Romano, Two Lovers Well, the semester is underway.  Yesterday I began teaching one of my favorite classes, the early British Literature survey (Literature in History I).  Along with Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the Wife of Bath, Doctor Faustus, Twelfth Night, King Lear, and Paradise Lost, I will be teaching the poetry […]

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Don’t Underestimate Students

I begin my two literature classes today and, as always, am filled with trepidation.  Will I be the teacher my students need me to be?  Margaret Edson’s play W;t reminds me that, if I stay true to the literature, all will be well. W;t, functions in part as a criticism of those college literature professors […]

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The Limitations of Cerebral Teaching

Robert Donat as Mr. Chips The new semester begins today.  Margaret Edson’s play W;t is a useful reminder of where I should put my priorities as I begin teaching. When my career started out, I had a number of things in common with Vivian Bearing, the English professor and Donne scholar in W;t. I too reveled […]

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The Tolling Bell Says You’re Not Alone

I talked yesterday about the poet being like one blundering around in the dark, making utterances that some, in their suffering, find consoling.  The poet doesn’t know which poems will reach which readers.  To make another analogy, he or she is like Queequeg, carefully constructing a coffin that then, after he is dead and in […]

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Doctors, Bad Bedside Manners, and Poetry

Margaret Edson        In Margaret Edson’s W;t there is a doctor, Jason, who has taken her 17th century poetry class as a challenge.  As he puts it, You can’t get into medical school unless you’re well-rounded.  And I made a bet with myself that I could get an A in the three hardest courses on campus. […]

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Runaway Bunny Sing Thee to Thy Rest

   In her dying moments, the Donne scholar in Margaret Edson’s W;t rejects Donne in favor of Margaret Wise Brown’s The Runaway Bunny.  What does this say about the usefulness of both Donne and Brown when we are pushed to the edge? Runaway Bunny is about “a little bunny who wanted to run away.”  But […]

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Wit Won’t Cushion Us against Death

Will John Donne’s “Death Be Not Proud” help one handle the fact that one has cancer? It is significant that the cancer victim and Donne scholar in Margaret Edson’s W;t is rejecting her poet by the end of the play. I’m actually not sure whether this particular poem would help any cancer patient. There’s a […]

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Arguing over Life, Death, and a Semicolon

John Donne          Cancer has gone from being a word to being a reality for me as two close friends have been struck.  Alan Paskow, whose progress I’ve been reporting on, had an operation before Christmas that removed three tumors from his right lung (one the size of a grapefruit).  And Beth Reynolds had a tumor […]

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Emily Dickinson’s Deathbed Fly

Okay, here is a second post on poems about small winged pests, written in honor of President Obama’s cool and cold-blooded killing of a fly. When I was a child, I used to enjoy the poem about “the funny old lady who swallowed a fly.” It is one of those repetition poems, with a new […]

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John Donne’s Seductive Flea

Georges de La Tour, Woman Catching a Flea, c. 1638. Oil on canvas. In case you haven’t heard, the news media was buzzing last week over a CBS interview with President Obama where he nailed a fly that was bothering him. I thought I’d have fun in today’s entry and talk about the symbolic use […]

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After Apple-Picking, Then What?

So much of the poetry that comforts us in time of death is infused with images of nature, poems like (in my case) Mary Oliver’s “Lost Children,” Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Adonais, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Perhaps the reason is that, with death, our natural side asserts its primacy in a way that cannot […]

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