Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

“Whose this peece should be”: Elizabeth Drury's role as alchemical model for salvation in John Donne's “Anniversaries”
by Reed, James Dallas, II, Ph.D., Northern Illinois University, 2009, 243; 3359055
Abstract (Summary)

John Donne’s two Anniversary poems (1611-12) historically have received negative criticism because of their hyperbolic praise of Elizabeth Drury. They have also been examined as either complementary or as distinct in a failed series. This study, using close reading analysis, examines the Anniversaries using the alchemical imagery found within the eulogy sections of both poems to reinterpret the nature and function of Elizabeth Drury in each poem and to argue for the poems’ complementary nature. Donne’s use of alchemical imagery, throughout his canon, is well documented. When Louis Martz, in 1947, concluded that the Anniversaries followed the Ignatian meditation format of Introduction, Body (with sections comprised of meditation, eulogy, refrain/moral), and Conclusion, he invited further investigations of the separate sections.

Donne’s use of alchemical imagery in other works supports the premise that he satirized exoteric, physical alchemy, but supported esoteric, or spiritual, alchemy. Analysis of both poems, focusing on the eulogy sections, five in FirAn and seven in SecAn, and their attendant meditation and refrain/moral sections, reveals that Elizabeth Drury functions as much more than beloved, deceased daughter of Donne’s patron, Robert Drury. Drury progresses from functioning as the Philosopher’s Stone in FirAn, attempting to transmute the world’s iniquity into spiritual gold to the ouroboros, the symbol of perfect completion, in SecAn , where she models and guides the poetic persona’s as well as the reader’s soul to heaven.

The study concludes that the Anniversary poems are complements. Drury’s function in FirAn purposely fails; as the tincture, or the Philosopher’s Stone, in the first poem, Drury could not induce permanent change upon the world because of its own flawed nature. The anatomization of the dead world in the first poem reconciles the reader to the necessity of following or progressing toward heaven, after Drury’s example. Therefore, in SecAn, Donne changes her into the symbol of perfect completion, the ouroboros, so her function is not to change a dead world, but to lead the living toward salvation. The two poems, harmonious in structure and alchemical imagery, analyzed within the eulogy sections complete one another and change our perception of Elizabeth Drury.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Johnson, Jeffrey
Commitee: Johnson, William C., Schaeffer, John D.
School: Northern Illinois University
Department: English
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-A 70/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Modern literature, British and Irish literature
Keywords: Alchemy, Anniversaries, Donne, Donne, John, Drury, Elizabeth, Ignatian meditation
Publication Number: 3359055
ISBN: 9781109186123
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