John Donne's Performances

Sermons, poems, Letters and devotions

By Margret Fetzer

John Donne's Performances


  • Hardcover
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-9561-0
  • Pages: 332
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £18.99
  • Published Date: July 2014
  • BIC Category: Literary studies: poetry & poets, POETRY / General, LITERARY CRITICISM / Poetry, Literature & literary studies / Poetry by individual poets, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: poetry & poets, Literature, Literature: history & criticism


Ever since their rediscovery in the 1920s, John Donne's writings have been praised for their energy, vigour and drama - yet so far, no attempt has been made to approach and define systematically these major characteristics of his work.

Drawing on J. L. Austin's speech act theory, Margret Fetzer's comparative reading of Donne's poetry and prose eschews questions of personal or religious sincerity and instead recreates an image of John Donne as a man of many performances. No matter if engaged in the writing of a sermon or a piece of erotic poetry, Donne placed enormous trust in what words could do. Questions as to how saying something may actually bring about that very thing, or how playing the part of someone else affects an actor's identity, are central to Donne's oeuvre - and moreover highly relevant in the cultural and theological contexts of the early modern period in general.

In treating both canonical and lesser known Donne texts, John Donne's Performances hopes to make a significant contribution not only to Donne criticism and research into early modern culture: by using concepts of performance and performativity as its major theoretical backdrop, it aims to establish an interdisciplinary link with the field of performance studies.


'a valuable and original contribution to early modern studies'
Syrithe Pugh, Zeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, 60.4 (2012)


Introduction - Beginning Donne
1. Pulpit performances - Sermons
2. Promethean and protean performances - Worldly poems
3. Passionate performances - Poems erotic and divine
4. Patronage performances - Letters
5. (Inter)Personal performances - Devotions
Conclusion - Being Don(n)e


Margret Fetzer was Assistant Professor of English Literature at the University of Munich, Germany

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