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Unframing John Donne’s transgressive poetry in light of Bakhtin’s dialogic theories


Alareer, Refaat R. (2017) Unframing John Donne’s transgressive poetry in light of Bakhtin’s dialogic theories. Doctoral thesis, Universiti Putra Malaysia.


John Donne’s famous poem “The Bait” parodies, and intertexts with, Christopher Marlowe’s “The Passionate Shepherd”. This couplet establishes Donne’s poetic experimentations: he’s calling for “some” not “all”, adding that his adventures are “new”. This thesis aims to explore John Donne’s poetic productions, which for centuries remained in the margins of the English canon, in their attempts to undermine and subvert existing modes of versification and the socio-political norms they represent. For that, Donne was subjected to negative framing and marginalisation from his contemporaries. Therefore, my thesis began unravelling early and modern reception of Donne in the light of New Historicism’s assumptions as a philosophical framework. In addition, this thesis examines Donne’s poetic explorations in the light of Russian formalist critic Mikhail Bakhtin’s dialogic theories of parody, carnival, and polyphony, which present particularly rich potential analytical tools for the study of emerging, anti-establishment literary texts. I argue that Donne’s positioning himself in direct opposition to the early Neo-classicists shaped the way he thought of and approached poetry in both form and content. John Donne’s parodic poetry helped him engage in a dialogue with his age and beyond and create poems with multiple-voices that gave his poetry the timeless appeal. Further, close readings of selected Donne poems reveal that he was offering alternative modes of versification and a different worldview from the one prevalent at his time and thus subverting monologic dominant poetic styles and systematised poetry by bringing to the poem carnivalistic discourse, ideas, and people often denied access under the pretext of etiquette and rules of decorum. In addition, Donne presents a role model for emerging writers resisting censorship and a prime example of Bakhtin’s concepts of addressivity and answerability: his poetry is usually addressed to posterity, whom Donne calls “future rebels”, and anticipates and generates future responses hence keeping it both universal and timeless. Therefore, my thesis concludes that Donne’s poetry invites a dialogic reading on three major levels: 1) Donne demonstrates Bakhtin’s perception of literature as a dynamic which refutes the existing canon as a fixed reality; 2) Donne’s poetry engenders dialogue between two opposing worldviews regarding poetry writing: the mainstream and the experimental, disturbing the established aesthetics of poetry of his time; and 3) the multiplicity of voices in Donne’ poetry illustrate Bakhtin’s concepts of dialogism and polyphony. In brief, John Donne might be the first serious attempt to indulge in bringing poetry from the towers of the courts as an elite practice to the public.

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Additional Metadata

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subject: Donne, John, 1572-1631
Subject: Donne, John, 1572-1631 - Criticism and interpretation - History
Subject: Self in literature
Call Number: FBMK 2017 67
Chairman Supervisor: Associate Professor Noritah Omar, PhD
Divisions: Faculty of Modern Language and Communication
Depositing User: Nurul Ainie Mokhtar
Date Deposited: 04 Jul 2019 01:56
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2019 04:05
URI: http://psasir.upm.edu.my/id/eprint/70032
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