FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIABILITY IN THE VERSE LETTERS OF JOHN DONNE
The verse letters of John Donne have been understudied and critically underappreciated for almost as long as they have existed in print. In their 1978 article, “Dark Texts Need Notes,” David Aers and Gunther Kress posit that the root of this condemnation and neglect is “the lack of a descriptive or interpretative framework within which the real interest of these poems can be perceived and analyzed” (138). This dissertation develops such a framework based on the concept of sociability. Within this framework, sociability conceptualizes Donne’s verse letters as literary objects that are not only representative of social exchange, but are themselves social artifacts whose presence in multiple contexts and perspectives perform and generate social connection. This dissertation explores three applications of sociability: the lexicon of friendship common to Donne and his contemporaries via the classical model of friendship outlined by Cicero; the metaphors of the letter as a physical manifestation of its sender meant to embody social ties in epistolary communication despite anxieties over physical absence; and the social configurations, organization, and reader reception of early modern manuscripts. Ultimately, these applications point to the need for a new editorial practice: the network edition emphasizes sociability and social relationships by employing a network visualization as its primary user interface. This interface informs a methodology for engaging new readers with applications of sociability in the network edition. In Donne’s case, recontextualizing the verse letters within an editorial framework that showcases their value as social artifacts of literary exchange is a necessary first step to a fuller critical appreciation of these poems and has significant implications for our understanding of the coterie poetry of Donne and his contemporaries.
Renaissance Literature, Digital Humanities, Manuscript Studies, NeoLatin, Literary Criticism, Poesy
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)