Liturgical liaisons : the textual body, irony, and betrayal in John Donne and Emily Dickinson

Heit, Jamey (2011) Liturgical liaisons : the textual body, irony, and betrayal in John Donne and Emily Dickinson. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information:


This thesis examines how John Donne and Emily Dickinson develop a liturgical poetics by recovering the irony that characterizes the accounts of the Last Supper. A liturgical poetics indicates a text that responds to the unavoidable death that all humans must encounter. Specifically, I analyze how Donne and Dickinson anticipate an eschatological release from mortality’s destabilizing effects within a Western Christian theological framework. As a result of the Fall, humanity is in exile from God’s presence. During the Last Supper, Jesus promises to share a future meal with his disciples, a pledge that establishes the textual basis for expecting a restoration to a pre-Fall condition.
A central feature of this project is the examination of how the flesh and blood of Jesus’ body provide the signs that enable the anticipation of this restoration. As the threshold that links the text with this specific theological tradition, the body generates effects that characterize a liturgical poetics. Irony is foremost among these effects and this trope is a common denominator in describing how Donne and Dickinson draw upon the body. The central irony is that Jesus’ body (like all bodies) still must undergo death, which in turn subverts the promise he makes. This thesis thus examines how Donne and Dickinson situate their liturgical poetics amidst this indefinite delay of the promise’s fulfillment.
The body highlights the deconstructive features that Donne and Dickinson share with the Last
Supper and late-20th and early 21st Century Continental Philosophy. Key figures from this tradition provide the methodological stepping off point for analyzing how Donne and Dickinson adapt the Last Supper’s irony. The result is to situate my argument in the paradox at the core of a liturgical poetics; in this paradox, the body offers the required closure that opens the text towards the restorative, eschatological condition that underwrites Western Christianity. The congruence between these various deconstructive traditions provides the basis for an eschatological Body.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright restrictions the full text of this thesis cannot be made available online. Access to the printed version is available once any embargo periods have expired.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BT Doctrinal Theology
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > Theology and Religious Studies
Supervisor's Name: Jasper, Prof. David
Date of Award: 2011
Embargo Date: 12 January 2015
Depositing User: Mrs Marie Cairney
Unique ID: glathesis:2011-3112
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 12 Jan 2012
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 14:04

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