To ask “fit things fitly” : the prayers of John Donne’s Devotions upon Emergent Occasions.

Date
2012-12
Authors
Marshall, Adam Bryant.
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Worldwide access.
Access changed 5/21/14.
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Abstract

John Donne’s 'Devotions upon Emergent Occasions' is often read alongside the many devotionals that shaped religious life during the early part of the seventeenth century. One subset of this literature, however, has often been overlooked: the array of devotional manuals purporting to provide instruction on the art of Christian prayer. When considered alongside this tradition, it becomes apparent that the prayers in Donne’s 'Devotions' can be read as evidence of its author’s participation in the project of the prayer manualists, as well as his simultaneous departure from them in one key area of concern: the importance of the pray-er’s distinct voice. As his comments on prayer in his sermons and the prayer-texts in the 'Devotions' illustrate, while Donne agreed with many of the central components of seventeenth-century prayer theory, his adoption of an adapted Augustinian prayer voice highlights the importance of the pray-er in the act of divine supplication.


John Donne’s Devotions upon Emergent Occasions is often read alongside the many devotionals that shaped religious life during the early part of the seventeenth century. One subset of this literature, however, has often been overlooked: the array of devotional manuals purporting to provide instruction on the art of Christian prayer. When considered alongside this tradition, it becomes apparent that the prayers in Donne’s 'Devotions' can be read as evidence of its author’s participation in the project of the prayer manualists, as well as his simultaneous departure from them in one key area of concern: the importance of the pray-er’s distinct voice. As his comments on prayer in his sermons and the prayer-texts in the Devotions illustrate, while Donne agreed with many of the central components of seventeenth-century prayer theory, his adoption of an adapted Augustinian prayer voice highlights the importance of the pray-er in the act of divine supplication.

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Keywords
Donne, John., Devotions upon emergent occassions., Devotional literature., Prayer manuals., Prayer., Seventeenth century English literature.
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