More than skin deep: dissecting Donne’s imagery of humours

Bumke, Alison (2015) More than skin deep: dissecting Donne’s imagery of humours. Review of English Studies, 66 (276). pp. 655-675. ISSN 1471-6968

Full text not available from this repository.


This article explores John Donne’s imagery of humoral complexions in verse letters to patrons and in sermons. In the early modern period, the term ‘complexion’ referred to a person’s unique mixture of humours, the four bodily fluids thought to determine appearance, behaviour, and health. Donne refers to complexions to raise questions of moral responsibility. Whether he seeks a patron’s support or a congregation’s repentance, he reworks humoral theories in elaborate, often playful ways, illustrating the necessity of whichever action he recommends. This article argues that his imagery of complexions warrants close attention, both for its rhetorical innovations and for what it reveals about Donne’s verse letters. By focusing on his complexions trope, we can look past letters’ flattery and recognize the literary trademarks - the imaginative thinking, wordplay, and themes - of Donne’s other texts, and of his sermons, in particular.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in Review of English Studies following peer review. The version of record Alison Bumke; More Than Skin Deep: Dissecting Donne’s Imagery of Humours, The Review of English Studies, Volume 66, Issue 276, 1 September 2015, Pages 655–675,
Schools/Departments: University of Nottingham, UK > Faculty of Arts > School of English
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Sanchez-Davies, Jennifer
Date Deposited: 06 Dec 2017 13:09
Last Modified: 04 May 2020 17:13

Actions (Archive Staff Only)

Edit View Edit View