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John Donne’s Conversions, 1613–2013

  • Lead applicant: Daniel Smith (UCL English)
  • Main collaborator: Jason Peacey (UCL History)
  • Additional collaborators:

    The proposed events would draw on UCL’s strong core of humanities graduate students researching the early modern period. It would enable them to gain important experience taking responsibility for certain organisational aspects of each event. Additionally, the events would be run in conjunction with the Centre for Early Modern Exchanges, and would draw on the expertise and academic networks of the Centre’s cross-faculty steering committee. The committee includes Professor Helen Hackett (English, co-Director), Dr Alexander Samson (Spanish, co-Director), and the Centre as a whole is represented by member of eighteen UCL departments.

The grant from UCL Grand Challenges will enable a seminar series exploring the poetry, letters, and sermons of John Donne, one of the seventeenth century’s most outstandingly significant literary and religious figures. This year marks 400 years since the composition of one of Donne’s most important poems, ‘Goodfriday, 1613. Riding Westwards’, which explores the author’s intensely intellectual religious meditations at a crucial period in his life. UCL’s Centre for Early Modern Exchanges will celebrate the occasion with three seminars on Donne’s life and writing around 1613. These events will promote Intercultural Interaction by bringing together scholars from different countries, investigating the ways that intellectual cultures interacted in the early modern period, and promoting dialogue across different present-day research cultures.

Because Donne is such a pivotal figure in the interchange between Catholic and Protestant aesthetics in the turbulent post-Reformation period, this proposal appeals to the Grand Challenge of Intercultural Interaction, particularly ‘Early Modern Exchanges’ and ‘Religion and Society’. In 2011-12, GCII supported a programme of events entitled ‘Negotiating Religion’. Our proposed seminar series will develop these events’ aim to ‘stimulate debate about the complex relationship between religion and society’ – this time with a particularly timely literary and historical focus. A GCII grant for ‘John Donne’s Conversions, 1613–2013’ would enable a cross-disciplinary seminar series drawing on UCL’s existing expertise and a particularly vibrant international community, which would appeal beyond the academy: a one-off historical celebration.

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