John Donne and the New Science

  • Mary Thomas Crane
Part of the Palgrave Handbooks of Literature and Science book series (PAHALISC)


When considering the impact of the new science on early modern literature, I suspect that most scholars would consider Edmund Spenser and John Donne to be at opposite ends of a spectrum, with Spenser representing a writer who embraces traditional, if not archaic forms, and ignores new ideas in natural philosophy, and Donne well known as one of the earliest poets to refer explicitly to Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, and their novel theories about the shape of the cosmos. However, as I have shown elsewhere, Spenser deals very seriously, albeit indirectly, with problems in contemporary astronomy in Book 5 of the Faerie Queene and again in the Cantos of Mutabilitie.1 And, although Donne refers to the new astronomy more explicitly than Spenser, many scholars have questioned the nature and seriousness of his engagement with it.2 Other scholars have argued that Donne does show serious interest in some aspects of new philosophy.3 Howard Marchitello is surely correct to argue that Donne was both ‘keenly interested in early modern science’ and also ‘deeply conflicted about the science’ especially as it ‘seems so profoundly to have complicated his understanding of the world.’4


Female Figure Natural Philosopher Heavenly Body Archaic Form Aristotelian Natural Philosophy 
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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary Thomas Crane
    • 1
  1. 1.Boston CollegeBostonUSA

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