Biathanatos

PDF EBook by John Donne

EBook Description

John Donne's BIAΘ download; ANATOΣ is a strange text. Biathanatos PDF EBook On the surface, it purports to defend "that paradox or thesis that self- PDFhomicide is not so naturally sin that it may never be otherwise." Yet the apparent seriousness of the work—evinced by such factors as its length, its citational (over-)scrupulousness, etc.—is offset by Donne's frequent forays into satire, (dark) humour and sophistry. Did Donne intend for it to be read in earnest? Is it an elaborate spoof on the scholastic treatise? Such questions have occupied the few critics brave enough to tackle this work, with little consensus generated between them. Evelyn Simpson, for instance, dismissed it as "an exercise in casuistry on the subject of suicide," while John Carey believed it "constituted a giant suicide note, always ready for use."

The truth of the matter, I suspect, is somehow related to the complex nature of the paradox itself. As a genre, the paradox has its roots in Classical oratory traditions, but experienced a spike of popularity in the late Renaissance. Unlike the logical paradox, in which a proposition is inconsistent with itself, the rhetorical paradox involved the vindication of a superficially contradictory or improbable thesis—e.g., Cicero's monumental Paradoxa Stoicorum contained titles such as "That only the wise man is free and that every foolish man is a slave" and "That the wise man alone is rich."

Donne's own correspondences shed some light on the form and function of the paradox, at least insofar as the poet was concerned. A. E. Malloch (probably the preeminent Biathanatos scholar) glosses one especially telling letter as follows:
The office of the paradoxes themselves is not to deceive, but by a show of deceit to force the reader to uncover the truth. The true nature of the paradox is revealed when the reader overturns it, just as the true nature of the swaggerer appears only when he is resisted. And further, the paradoxes do not really have natures at all; they are nothings. They exist only within the antithetical action of the reader, and if he allows them (i.e., allows them an existence), he is making another paradox, viz., That Nothing Is.

Content-wise, Biathatanos is a rhetorical hodgepodge of legal theory, scriptural maxims and Biblical/historical precedent, which makes it quite the slog to get through. But for all that, it's also an active, living book, one that exists in the dialectical exchange between reader and (material) text. The result is somewhat paradoxical: Donne's vindication of suicide is both tedious and fascinating. Like this book? Read online this: Paradox, Super Minds American English Level 4 Teacher's Resource Book with Audio CD.

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