John Donne's Physics

Elizabeth D. Harvey, Timothy M. Harrison


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University of Chicago Press
10 May 2024
ISBN: 9780226833514
256 pages

From the publisher

A reimagining of Devotions upon Emergent Occasions as an original treatment of human life shaped by innovations in seventeenth-century science and medicine.
In 1624, poet and preacher John Donne published Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, a book that recorded his near-death experience during a deadly epidemic in London. Four hundred years later, in the aftermath of our own pandemic, Harvey and Harrison show how Devotions crystalizes the power, beauty, and enduring strangeness of Donne’s thinking. Arguing that Donne saw human life in light of emergent ideas in the study of nature (physics) and the study of the body (physick), John Donne’s Physics reveals Devotions as a culminating achievement, a radically new literary form that uses poetic techniques to depict Donne’s encounter with death in a world transformed by new discoveries and knowledge systems.