The seventeenth-century French philosopher Nicolas Malebranche thought that philosophy could learn a valuable lesson from prayer, which teaches us how to attend, wait, and be open for what might happen next. Death Be Not Proud, the inaugural book in the Class 200 series, explores the precedents of Malebranche's advice by reading John Donne's poetic prayers in the context of what David Marno calls the "art of holy attention." If in Malebranche's view, attention is a hidden bond between religion and philosophy, devotional poetry is the area where this bond becomes visible. Marno shows that in works like "Death, be not proud," Donne's most triumphant poem about the resurrection, the goal is to allow the poem's speaker to experience a given doctrine as his own thought, as an idea occurring to him. But while the thought must feel like an unexpected event for the speaker, the poem itself is a careful preparation for it. And the key to this preparation is attention, the only state in which the speaker can perceive the doctrine as a cognitive gift. ?Along the way, Marno illuminates why attention is required in Christian devotion in the first place, and uncovers a tradition of battling distraction that spans from ascetic thinkers and Church Fathers to Catholic spiritual exercises and Protestant prayer manuals.
As a study of how Donne's poetry appropriates this tradition, Death Be Not Proud contributes to discussions about early modern English devotional poetry and to broader studies of Christian devotion's relevance for secular thought.
Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
Number of pages: 384
Weight: 612 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 25 mm
"Death Be Not Proud is a beautifully written book with wide ramifications for the study of Donne and early modern poetry, of course, but also more broadly for the study of literature, theology, and philosophy. The link between attention as a form of devotional practice in Donne and as the root of thought for philosophers like Malebranche and Descartes is extremely fruitful and carries over to important insights about the very phenomenological method that Marno himself employs."--Amy Hollywood, author of Sensible Ecstasy: Mysticism, Sexual Difference, and the Demands of History
"Death Be Not Proud is a major landmark in Donne studies. Subtly avoiding both hard-boiled historicism and reactionary formalism, Marno offers startlingly fresh readings of Donne's work as part of a legacy of devotional strategies inherited from Aristotle, Paul, Augustine, and Petrarch. Much more than just a book on one of the greatest English poets, Death Be Not Proud should be read by anyone interested in the philosophy and form of devotional art from late antiquity to the dawn of Cartesianism."--Peter McCullough, author of Sermons at Court: Politics and Religion in Elizabethan and Jacobean Preaching
"With his formidable command of religion, philosophy, and literary history. . . the rewards of attending to [Marno's] arguments are significant, as he provides sensitive and nuanced readings of Donne's Holy Sonnets, traces the intersections of devotional practices, prayer, and poetry, and draws important conclusions between theology, philosophy. and religion. . . . Thoroughly and conscientiously argued, Marno's new book is a welcome contribution."--Sixteenth Century Journal