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Relationality, Impossibility, and the Experience of God in John Donne's Erotic Poetry

Andrea Hollingsworth


How does theology name the experience of God in the context of human relationships--specifically, relationships of erotic love? While many contemporary theologians have focused on ways in which relational harmony mediates the experience of God, this article explores ways in which relational ambiguity mediates the experience of God. It suggests that the erotic verse of seventeenth-century poet and priest John Donne offers important resources in the search for ways to attend to divine disclosures within the absences and impossibilities of erotic relationality. In-depth, constructive readings of two Donnean love poems (“The Good Morrow” and “A Nocturnal Upon St. Lucy’s Day”) highlight eros’s power to give rise to experiences of the hiddenness and revealedness of God with(in) the absence and presence of the beloved. With its close interplay of form and content, Donne’s poetry enacts relational impossibility from within, thereby inviting interpreters into participatory understandings of eros’s revelatory aporiae.

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