This lesson set offers a mature look at the metaphysical poetry of John Donne. I expanded the lesson set available in the Prentice Hall/Pearson British Tradition textbook. Please note that this lesson set discusses, in part, Donne's focus on physical love by examining an excerpt (American conceit) from "His Mistress Going to Bed" and the entire text of "The Flea." The presentation of his sensual poetry is tastefully done and is presented as one portion of his entire body of work. Some schools consider these texts too provocative to teach. They are presented as an overview of Donne's progression from a young poet, rooted in the physical to a reflective, spiritual poet; he came to see true married love, both physical and spiritual, as a step towards the divine.
This set contains an adaptation of a New Yorker Magazine article discussing Donne's love poetry, a guiding PowerPoint covering background on the Renaissance, Donne, characteristics of metaphysical poetry, and a portion of "His Mistress Going to Bed" to be used for teacher modeling. It also contains a copy of "The Flea" suitable for additional modeling and annotation and a graphic organizer to guide students in understanding the meaning of the three poems by identification of conceits, paradoxes, and argument. The two additional poems, "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning," and "Holy Sonnet 10 - Death Be Not Proud," are available in most Brit Lit textbooks, are in the common domain, and are widely available on the Web. I have also included a six page analysis of the poems addressing meaning and literary elements (including apostrophe and allusion) as well as discussion topics for in depth class discussion. All documents are fully editable.
Based on learner abilities, this lesson could extend from 2 to 4 days with homework. My advanced classes do much more of the work on their own; my average classes need more scaffolding, checks for understanding, and clarification.
My students are truly intrigued with this lesson. It is mature but not pornographic in any way. I use this lesson with my senior honors classes. It was difficult to get them interested in Renaissance poetry until I presented this perspective of Donne. They like discovering that people then had the same motivations and desires that people have now including the need for physical and spiritual connections and understandings.