The Oxford Edition of the Sermons of John Donne will achieve a complete reassessment of the sermons of John Donne (1572-1631), with a new critical edition of those sermons in 16 volumes, with introductions and explanatory notes for a new generation of readers. Donne is one of the most celebrated authors of the English Renaissance. Editorial work on Donne’s poetry has never slackened, and its popularity reaches well beyond academia.
However, his poetry represents only a small fraction of his writing, and in recent years his religion and his prose works have arguably been the focus of the most innovative research. Yet sermons from this period are rarely available in accessible editions, and in contrast to the poetry, Donne’s have suffered relative editorial neglect. The 160 extant sermons were edited by George R. Potter and Evelyn Simpson between 1953 and 1962, but no explanatory notes were provided, making the volumes difficult for students and even experts to use effectively. The current project addresses (1) how to facilitate a modern reader’s understanding of these sermons, by the provision of introductory materials and notes that identify references to the Bible, allusions to other works, and engagements with theological, social, and political debates; (2) how close modern readers can get to a sermon as it was originally preached; (3) whether this form, or the latest one produced in the author’s lifetime should be the basis of the text we read now; and (4) how such sermons should be arranged – by, for example, the date of their delivery or according to the location in which they were preached.
Oxford University Press has commissioned the 16-volume edition that will result from this AHRC-funded research project, under the General Editorship of Dr Peter McCullough and involving an international team of scholars. The team will concentrate chiefly on addressing and resolving research questions concerning the texts of the sermons, and is supported by a full-time research assistant, Dr Sebastiaan Verweij, whose primary task is to collate multiple copies of the sermons in print and manuscript in order for the editors to establish the most accurate texts possible. As well as providing the texts that will be introduced and annotated by the contributing editors, this work will result in a comprehensive Textual Companion to the edition, which will explain the ways in which Donne’s sermons have reached us, outline the principles on which the edition is based, and provide a template for further study and editions of other early modern sermons. The project will, therefore, provide an unmatched resource for those interested in Donne’s writings (students, teachers, scholars, and the wider public), but it will also be invaluable to students of the history of preaching, religion, the law, the court, politics, and textual transmission in the period. This project website, also funded by the AHRC, presents detailed outlines of the component parts of the edition, statements of our editorial principles, and much of the non-copyright primary research generated by our work.