The Introduction situates Donne on Augustine in its main disciplinary contexts: the history of religion and the history of reading. The chapter argues for the importance of attending to the theological heritage of early modern thought: Renaissance culture saw not only a revival of the classics, but was heavily indebted to the patristic tradition. Among the Fathers, Augustine's influence was paramount, but his doctrinal legacy could be construed in multiple and complex ways. For the preacher and poet John Donne, Augustine's most significant contribution lay in his theory of interpretation. Reading, to Augustine, was more than a simple scholarly technique: it offered an intellectual method, spiritual discipline, and even a form of philosophy. Donne's engagement with Augustinian models of interpretation calls attention to a neglected aspect of Renaissance reading culture, and uncovers a tradition of theological reading that has been obscured, to some extent, by the current scholarly focus on humanist reading practices.
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