Theses Doctoral

The Poetry of Interpretation: Exegetical Lyric after the English Reformation

Bloomfield, Gabriel

“The Poetry of Interpretation” writes a pre-history of the twentieth-century phenomenon of close reading by interpreting the devotional poetry of the English Renaissance in the context of the period’s exegetical literatures. The chapters explore a range of hermeneutic methods that allowed preachers and commentators, writing in the wake of the Reformation’s turn to the “literal sense” of scripture, to grapple with and clarify the bible’s “darke texts.” I argue that early modern religious poets—principally Anne Lock, John Donne, George Herbert, William Alabaster, and John Milton—absorbed these same methods into their compositional practices, merging the arts of poesis and exegesis. Consistently skeptical about the very project they undertake, however, these poets became not just practitioners but theorists of interpretive method. Situated at the intersection of religious history, hermeneutics, and poetics, this study develops a new understanding of lyric’s formal operations while intimating an alternative history of the discipline of literary criticism.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
English and Comparative Literature
Thesis Advisors
Murray, Molly
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 26, 2019