Article ID: CBB530159639

“O Multiplied Misery!”: The Disordered Medical Narrative of John Donne's Devotions (2016)


John Donne composed his Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (1624) to share a revelatory experience of illness with readers. Yet, in the book's final chapter, Donne himself indicates that bodily pain is nearly incommunicable. This raises a question: How can Donne hope to share his illness with readers when he believes its physical symptoms resist communication? This essay argues that Donne bypasses this impasse by formally recreating one of his illness's contemplative symptoms: the vexed temporal disorder caused by interpreting one's world from within a sick body. Because this symptom arises from Donne's inability to order the events of his illness, he is able to recreate it within readers by likewise disordering the Devotions' narrative. By sharing this contemplative “torment” with readers, the Devotions democratizes Donne's difficult path toward spiritual revelation. In doing so, it demonstrates that narrative form can bridge the communication gap between the suffering writer and his readers.

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Authors & Contributors
Melehy, Hassan
Floyd-Wilson, Mary
Barbour, Reid
Matchinske, Megan
Shackelford, Jole R.
Watkins, John
Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies
1650--1850: Ideas, Aesthetics, and Inquiries in the Early Modern Era
Cambridge University Press
University of Pennsylvania Press
Ediciones La Uña Rota
Wallstein Verlag
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Medicine and literature
Disease and diseases
Poetry and poetics
Medicine and religion
Science and literature
Donne, John
Shakespeare, William
Vesalius, Andreas
Montagu, Mary Wortley, Lady
Dryden, John
Fletcher, Phineas
Time Periods
17th century
Early modern
16th century
18th century
Great Britain
United States

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