A reexamination of John Donne's Holy Sonnet “Batter my heart,” especially one looking at the sonnet's relationship to Early Modern rhetoric, is long overdue. In this paper, I hope to show that a focus on Donne's relationship to Early Modern rhetoric yields several useful new insights. I argue specifically that Donne was probably exposed to Non-Ramist rhetorical methods and theory at many points in his education, from his childhood to his college years to his years at the Inns of Court. Furthermore, Non-Ramist rhetoric has moral implications, suggesting that aspects of an author's feelings, character, and desires can be analyzed by looking at the writer's rhetorical choices in relation to a specific audience in a specific situation. After discussing Donne's rhetorical education, I will look at how the rhetorical decisions of the poetic speaker in Donne's “Batter my heart” reveal his opinions of God and develop his attitudes toward God over the course of the poem. Indeed, the poetic speaker uses rhetoric that exerts power back on him, causing him to change: whereas at the beginning of the poem the poetic speaker thinks he controls his relationship with God, at the end he sees himself as God's humble subject. Ultimately, the poetic speaker's feelings of utter separation from God at the end of the poem actually yield a sense that he has found God and has gained a sense of awe surrounding the Divine.
College and Department
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Giullian, Marc Daniel, "A Lesson in Rhetoric: Finding God Through Language in “Batter my heart”" (2014). Theses and Dissertations. 4334.
John Donne, rhetoric, violence, doubt, "Batter my heart", Holy Sonnets, Desiderius Erasmus, Peter Ramus, Donne's education, rhetorical education, catachresis, prayer