Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis


English Language and Literatures



First Advisor

Esther G. Richey


Within the framework of a psychoanalytic approach to gender roles in Early Modern English culture, this thesis aims to acquire an understanding of what has been called for the sake of inquiry John Donne's "misogyny." In other words, this thesis, through a remembrance of the fact that a twenty-first century feminist conceptualization of misogyny cannot be applied to the work of an Elizabethan poet without consciousness of developments in gender identity and power relations that have occurred over the past half-millennium or so, seeks to gain an understanding of Donne's attitudes toward women that is as untainted as possible by twenty-first century biases.

This study is applied exclusively to lyrics from Donne's "Songs and Sonnets." Specifically, the following poems are analyzed in this thesis: "The Broken Heart," "Confined Love," "Love's Alchemy," "Lovers' Infiniteness," "The Paradox," "Self-Love," "Song [Go and Catch a Falling Star]," "To His Mistress, Going to Bed," "The Triple Fool," "Twicknam Garden," and "Woman's Constancy." These lyrics have been chosen because they present themselves as especially pertinent to developing a complete understanding of Donne's complex attitudes towards women, gender, and sexuality.

What this thesis is ultimately able to argue is that, though Donne's lyrics display an unquestionable misogyny, they also reveal that these feelings are created from a much more complex psychological anxiety about the impossibility of human intimacy. This fact does not allow a pardoning of Donne's misogyny, but it does help readers contextualize it within an understanding of the poet's broader psychological landscape.