Meg Lota Brown

Donne and the Politics of Conscience in Early Modern England examines the responses of John Donne and his contemporaries to post-Reformation debate about authority and interpretation. It argues that the legal and epistemological principles, as well as the narrative practices, of casuistry provided an important resource for those caught in the welter of conflicting laws and religions.
The first two chapters explore the political, historical, and theological contexts of casuistry, locating Donne in debates about the limits of reason and the relativity of law and ethics. Chapter three addresses Donne's concern with problems of moral decision and action, of knowledge and definition, in five of his prose works. Chapter four examines ways in which his verse assimilates and wittily subverts casuists' responses to epistemological and linguistic uncertainty.
The study is particularly useful for literary critics, intellectual historians, and theologians.