Recent Critical Approaches

John Donne was seen as a fairly minor poet until T.S. Eliot, who can also claim to have brought Gerard Manley Hopkins to a wider audience, wrote two seminal essays: "The Metaphysical Poets" and "Andrew Marvell". Eliot was in many ways a metaphysical poet in the tradition of Donne, using conceits and intellectual trickery to convey his message. It is fitting that Eliot should have brought Donne, perhaps his most significant influence, back into the public eye. F.R. Leavis, one of the founders of 'New Criticism', continued and expanded upon Eliot's work on Donne in an influential essay of 1936: "The Line of Wit". In this essay, he makes a case for Donne as an ideal author on whom to practice New Criticism; a poet whose work rewards close reading and whose poems reveal more of themselves the deeper into them one reads.

The other essential critical work on Donne is John Carey's Donne: Life, Mind and Art. This is by turns deeply revealing as a psychoanalytical reading of Donne's work and rewarding as a new critical interpretation of an author who has still prompted too little genuine academic interest. Carey is a critic who is always convincing, whether he is reading from his preferred psychological standpoint or as a lover of great literature. His book may be read alongside Eliot and Leavis' essays to add to an appreciation of the power of Donne's verse.

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