Augustinian Hermeneutics in the Essayes in Divinity
This chapter focuses in detail on Donne's most neglected text: the Essayes in Divinity (composed c.1614; published 1651) and marks the transition to the second part of the book: having presented a survey of Donne's reading in the first two chapters, the book now moves on to five detailed case studies. The Essayes are a series of Scripture meditations; through reading the first verses of Genesis and Exodus, Donne defines his sense of Christian identity and vocation. The main model of interpretation in the Essayes is Augustine's Confessions, a text which is constantly invoked for doctrinal and devotional guidance. The chapterer traces key Augustinian passages and charts their re-emergence both in the wider sphere of Renaissance devotional writing and in Donne's later career, in the Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (1624) and in his sermons. The Essayes serve as a self-conscious act of religious and interpretive initiation, which prepare for Donne's ordination in 1615.
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