english lecture john donne november 11, 2010
On the Board:
Christian - Humanism
Interiority: “I”-centered, personal style, “master concerns”
Jacob Burkhardt: “the discovery of the world and of man [humankind]”
The metaphysical poets were men of learning, and to show their learning was their whole
endeavor... Of wit, they had more than enough. The most heterogenous ideas are yoked by
violence together, nature and art are ransacked for illustrations, comparisons and allusions...
Their wish was only to say what they hoped had never been said before” - Samuel Johnson
- Renaissance: increasing focus on human beings and the world surrounding them
- Human beings situated between angels and animals. Angels can not change, they are closer
to god than human beings. Animals can not change either, they live in a world instinct where all
they have to do is survive.
- Humans have mutability, the capacity to change. We can make ourselves better people,
but if we make wrong choices we can make ourselves worse people.
- Capacity to take responsibility for the animals and try to ascend to the level of angels.
- Right Reason: Reason informed and guided by moral and spiritual values. Places human
beings above animals. The faculty of reason is the capacity given by God to human beings.
- Faculty of the WIll: Invented in the Renaissance by St Augustine who took a sub compartment
of reason (classical thinking) and developed it into this Faculty of Will.
- Effect the commands of reason and puts them into practice
- Provides a channel through which god can help people
- Passions and Appetites
- God given, essential to human survival (procreation, eating)
- When the Reason and the Will are working to control p and a we have what the
renaissance considered a sane human. Capable of moderation, temperate, controlling
ones tendencies to go to excesses. (Relationship between horse and rider: Rider is
reason, bridle is will, Passions and Appetites is horse. Without exercise of the bridle to
control reason the horse can run amok and become chaotic)
- Links together key qualities of christianity
- Belief in God, Desire not to fall into evil, to be better, redeemed
- Classical quality of reason: Capacity of us to understand and analyze the world and
- This = Christian humanism
- The hyphen between the two words is fragile. Tentative link, existentially fragile link between
one set of values and another. This means that these values can be split apart. Christian english lecture john donne november 11, 2010
Humanism can easily move to secular Humanism (rejects Christianity) or Christianity (rejects
- Era of scientific inquiry and discovery (Galileo using telescope, alchemy became chemistry,
herbalism (?) became medicine, Christopher Columbus)
- All of these shifts happened in the Renaissance
- Era of literary discovery
- Writing that focused on the Human, power and potential of human reason, human love,
education etc. They were tired of the writing in Sir Gawain.
- Interested in what love might be
- Type of writing which is profoundly innovative, intellectually witty, highly rational. Type of
writing practiced by John Donne and called Metaphysical Poetry
- Philosophical writing related to sciences
- Goal: Strengthen human reason. Keep us thinking, developing our capacity for thought
(like sudoku’s and crosswords today)
- Self conscious writing - also profoundly “i” centered. As an individual tries to come to
terms with what religion, science means to them.
- Highly Stylized Poetry; it’s all about displaying your in