Cover: Desiring Donne: Poetry, Sexuality, Interpretation, from Harvard University PressCover: Desiring Donne in HARDCOVER

Desiring Donne

Poetry, Sexuality, Interpretation

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Product Details


$55.50 • £44.95 • €50.00

ISBN 9780674023475

Publication Date: 01/15/2007


260 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches


In fluid and witty prose that grabs the reader like a great whodunit, Desiring Donne shows that Donne scholarship has from its beginning revealed more about the interpreters’ attitudes toward erotic love than they have about the poems. A series of compelling readings of poems then demonstrates that the desires articulated in Donne’s poetry are at the level of our most complex contemporary thinking on desire. This is work of major ambition and attainment; Saunders casts as much new light on the contemporary literary critical enterprise as he does on Donne. —Henry Staten, Professor of English and of Comparative Literature and Adjunct Professor of Philosophy, University of Washington, and author of Eros in Mourning: Homer to Lacan(Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995)

Ben Saunders is an intelligent critic who writes with an absorbing clarity; because he has something important to say he willingly embraces what Stanley Fish calls "the risk of intelligibility." The result is the best book on John Donne in a long time. Because he also engages important issues of interpretive desire, this book goes beyond Donne; Saunders is in a tradition which uses the early modern to "read" the modern as well as vice versa. So Desiring Donne should be brought to the attention of all those engaged in the fascinating, culturally central (so always contested) activity of interpretation.—Professor Jonathan Dollimore, author of Radical Tragedy, Sexual Dissidence, and Death, Desire and Loss in Western Culture.

Saunders asks how and even whether human desire is opposed to "powerful thoughts," and he traces this question in a vigorously argued metacrictical study of the reception of John Donne’s poetry. This approach has an immediate advantage: Donne in some measure has always resembled his critics--his intelligent readers--because his poetry marks a high point in a famed but difficult art. His lyrics, both secular and sacred, as well as desultory verse epistles and extended Anniversaries, weave metaphysical argument with intense expressions of physical sensation and sexual drive. Though by no means the earliest or latest of such "metaphysical" poetry, his love poems are the most extreme instance of this interpretive catachresis. The idea of desire-as-interpretation (and its converse) is thus inherently interesting and historically plausible. To introduce his approach, Saunders reverses the usual presumption. We usually suppose that thought is "shaped by disavowed impulses of the flesh," whereas he would invert this hierarchy, asking "to what degree those primal impulses themselves are already forms of thought, already interpretations." —Angus Fletcher, author of Time, Space, and Motion in the Age of Shakespeare

Saunders is first of all an excellent close reader, but he is also an admirably lucid thinker and an enviably vigorous writer. Always engaging if occasionally exasperating, this is the edgy, exhilarating book that Donne, with all of his outrageous brilliance, deserves. —Michael Schoenfeldt, Professor of English, University of Michigan, and author of Bodies and Selves in Early Modern England (Cambridge University Press, 2000)

[An] intelligent, often illuminating... reading of Donne’s poetry... Readers... will admire the nimbleness of Saunders’ critical footwork in this book and (this is key) will benefit from several excellent readings of poems by and associated with Donne. The chapter on gender in Donne merits special commendation--and the attention of any student of this greatest of lyric poets.—E. D. Hill, Choice

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