In any critical overview of recent work on Donne, it would be impossible to ignore John Carey’s provocative book, John Donne: Life, Mind and Art, which draws heavily on history, biographical material and psychology to explore Donne’s mind. In it he uses paradox and Donne’s love of it to reconcile the two traditional faces of the poet: love poet and religious supplicant. Carey offers some detailed analyses of a number of key poems and continually provides stimulating observations, but they tend to be overwhelmed by his handling of Donne’s life and interests which combine to create the impression that the study is more interested in the poet than the poetry. Yet it has to be said that readers of Donne commonly find themselves drawn into a fascination with their sense of the poet’s identity which the poetry itself stimulates, and so Carey’s emphasis is in a way not surprising at all.
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