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Background and Biography

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1 Background and Biography
John Donne Background and Biography

2 Beginnings… Born into a Catholic family in 1572, during a strong anti-Catholic period in England. He entered Oxford University at age 11 and later the University of Cambridge, but never received degrees, due to his Catholicism.

3 Beginnings… During the 1590s, he spent much of his inheritance on women, books and travel. He wrote most of his love lyrics and erotic poems during this time. In 1593, John Donne’s brother, Henry, was convicted of Catholic sympathies and died in prison soon after. The incident led John to question his Catholic faith and inspired some of his best writing on religion. In 1617, John Donne’s wife died shortly after giving birth to their 12th child. The time for writing love poems was over, and Donne devoted his energies to more religious subjects.(Holy Sonnets)

4 Metaphysical Poetry John Donne is known as the founder of the Metaphysical Poets It’s poetic style in which philosophical and spiritual subjects were approached with reason and often concluded in paradox. Metaphysical Poets are known for their ability to startle the reader and coax new perspective through Paradoxical images Subtle argument Inventive syntax Imagery from art Philosophy Religion

5 Class work… (Make sure you explain and use evidence from the poem when necessary)
Does Donne's argument about the harmlessness of his seduction pass muster? (In other words, is Donne’s seduction has harmless as he says it is?) What are the steps in his argument? Where, if ever, does the argument break down? What does the woman have to gain, or lose, if she gives in to the speaker? What do you think their previous relationship has been like? Find 3 examples of poetic devices in this poem. How are they being used? What effect do they have upon the reader/message/theme, etc?

6 Homework… Due Tomorrow (Make sure you explain and use evidence from the poem when necessary)
If the flea could respond to the speaker, what would it say? Would it be on the speaker's side? Would it brag about its conquest? Would it defend the lady's honor? As an exercise, try writing “The Flea's Side of the Story.” The poem ends before the woman can give a final response. How do you think she'd respond to the speaker's final argument? How would you respond? How do you feel about the flea by the end of the poem? Does Donne succeed in humanizing it? In other words, does he succeed in making you sympathize with the flea? Would you still kill the next flea that lands on you?

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