Last week I discussed the general nature of dissertation, this week I’m giving you an exclusive sneak peek into my dissertation topic. I bet you’re dying of excitement!
The working title (AKA unfinished and still rather vague title) of my dissertation is ‘Affective Piety in Middle English Religious Lyrics and John Donne’s Holy Sonnets’. This basically means I will be looking at how the philosophical idea of affective piety is presented in the Middle English lyrics and how it influenced John Donne about 500 years later.
First things first, what on earth, I hear you ask, is affective piety? In a nutshell, affective piety is imagining that you are in the place of Jesus Christ when he was on earth, and in particular, on the Cross. So Middle English religious lyrics really go in for a gruesome depiction of the crucifixion, in all the gory agony! While my research into John Donne and his Holy Sonnets is still very scanty I know he was influenced by both affective piety and the Middle English lyrics so I’m sure I’ll be able to draw some interesting comparisons and contrasts in due course.
I feel I ought to also explain how I came to choose the topic. To be honest, it was fairly random. I’d originally thought I would step outside of my comfort zone and do a language dissertation; however, my wise Mum subtly suggested that perhaps a dissertation was a time when you should be maximising your strengths, not striking it out on a limb. I had to agree, so a day before the deadline I found myself racking my brains for something that involved my best skill, close reading. I happened to recall a throwaway remark my incredibly knowledgeable Medieval Literature tutor had made in our first seminar: that John Donne’s Holy Sonnets were influenced by affective piety in Middle English religious lyrics. I like Medieval Literature and I like John Donne. That was good enough for me!