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John Donne

Stick a fork in us—we're Donne.

John Donne (pronounced: done) is tricky, that's for sure.

But he's also mysterious, alchemical, erotic, violent, scientific, obsessive, startling, religious, enchanting, confusing, and seriously weird. We guess that's what you get when you cross a 17th-century smart-alecky ladies' man with an uptight death-fearing preacher: some of the strangest, most exciting poetry and prose in the English language.

This course will guide you through the best of John Donne, from his playful and painful love poems to his solemn religious prose where he dishes about sickness and death. We'll unravel his extended metaphors, examine his views on women and God, figure out how the soul and body are connected, bone up on some 17th-century scientific and religious context, and sort through his hamper of figurative imagery.

Who knows, we may even catch a falling star—stick around and see.

Course Breakdown

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Unit 1. Love Songs

In this unit, you'll get every variety of Donne's woman-obsession. We'll read poems about casual lust and ones about sad longing. We'll read verses of passionate misogyny, followed by philosophical meditations on how two souls can become one. What can we say? Donne was never one to play just one note.

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Unit 2. Death, Sickness, and Other Uplifting Things

This unit gets down and dirty in the most morbid, hyperbolic, decay-and-death-obsessed of Donnedom. Hearts and flowers? Love and sex? Not so much.

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Unit 3. Gimme that Old-Time Religion

In the religious works we'll read in this unit, Donne unleashes the complexity and violence of his theological thoughts and fears. This is the dark side of religion: we've got sickness, death, sin, pain, and Christ's crucifixion, all wrapped up in some of Donne's wildest metaphors.


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  • Course Length: 3 weeks
  • Grade Levels: 11, 12, College
  • Course Type: Short Course
  • Category:
    • English
    • Literature

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