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Nihility in John Donne’s Songs and Sonets

Author: YangJian
Tutor: LiZhengShuan
School: Hebei Normal
Course: English Language and Literature
Keywords: John Donne nihility death
Type: Master's thesis
Year: 2011
Downloads: 30
Quote: 0
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John Donne is the most influential metaphysical poet in the 17th century. His poems are always combined with lyric and speculation, enthusiasm and contradiction. Although Donne is dissolute in appearance, but what exists beneath violence, sex and contradiction is his inner world full of skepticism and nihility. In the 17th century the conflict of religious beliefs becomes sharper and sharper in England, and the times produce their heroes, Donne’s poems are filled with salacity, decadent and nihility. This thesis focuses mainly on the strong sense of skepticism and nihility in Songs and Sonets, and his meditation on death in sub-consciousness. The skepticism towards the world he lives in illustrates that Donne’s evaluation on identity and his inner mind full of illusion which deepens the theme of his poems. This thesis falls into three chapters and mainly discusses the nihility in his Songs and Sonets in the aspects of image, theme, and Donne’s evaluation on identity.Chapter One tries to analyze the nihility of images. This falls into three aspects, the first is death images which appear many times in his poems; the second is“the third party”image which concerns on the person or a group or an object besides the people concerned in the poem. The last one concentrates on the absent images which are always the containers of their love.Chapter Two chooses three aspects of the themes as cutting-over point to analyze the contradiction between nihility and substantiality in Donne’s poems, which is body and soul, life and death, fragility and violence. In this chapter the author will also search the reason why there are the strong sense of death and nihility.Chapter Three focuses on nihility which is a kind of value on identity to Donne. On the one hand, through analysis several love poems to search why he has an inclination of nihilism and skepticism; on the other hand, the author uses Freud’s theory of“id, ego and super ego”to explain his meditation on death.Death is a perpetual theme in John Donne’s poems. He is trying his best to pursue a perfect spiritual world for one thing; and he has to face the cold reality for another, which leads to the contradiction in his heart. The search of nihility in John Donne’s poems will help understand his formula for creation and opens another angle of view to the world.

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