A Reading of John Donne's Secular and Religious Poetry within the Context of Jungian Individuation
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John Donne’s Songs and Sonnets (1633) and Holy Sonnets (1633) collections represent conversions both from Catholicism to Protestantism and from a secular lifestyle to a religious one. They also manifest the psychological outcomes of certain behaviours exhibited during this process. In this respect, this thesis aims to analyse the psychological impacts of the different poetic personae’s various attitudes towards the dichotomy between body and soul within the context of the Jungian individuation process. The term individuation refers to the process during which one is required to separate oneself from the demands of collective consciousness or societal demands by acknowledging one’s shadow side or the qualities that one wishes to abandon to accord with social expectations of oneself. In accordance with the process of individuation, the poetic personae of Songs and Sonnets reject the reformed emphasis on the repression of bodily desires, which was also promoted by the Petrarchan and the Elizabethan sonnet traditions and Neoplatonism. Experiencing a type of love that includes the unity of body and soul provides the lovers of these poems with the feelings of wholeness and transcendence. On the other hand, the religious speakers of Holy Sonnets are on the verge of religious conversion. They view their former selves, who valued carnality in love, as sinners. The persistence of their carnal selves fills them with the fear of eternal punishment in Hell. Thus, they express their wish to rid themselves of their bodily passions. However, they feel inadequate to destroy that unpreferable part of themselves. For this reason, they ask God for his intervention in the same task. Neither God responds to their prayers, nor do their undesirable selves leave them. Accordingly, they find themselves oscillating between two opposing parts of themselves. Hence, this thesis argues that when read within the context of the individuation process, the poetic personae of John Donne’s secular poetry experience the transcendent function while the speakers of his religious poetry suffer from neurosis due to the persistence of their shadow side in their conscious minds.