John Donne in the Modern Popular Culture: Holy Sonnets and the Film Wit

이진아/Jin-Ah Lee

2018, vol.28, no.2, pp. 195-222

This article investigates the ways that John Donne’s Holy Sonnets is weaved into the TV film Wit, the screen adaptation of the play Wit, demonstrating that the movie’s cinematic treatment of the Holy Sonnets makes this classic work still relevant to the modern popular culture. Some key poetic features of the Holy Sonnets, such as abrupt or aggressive openings, dramatic uses of language, narrowly concentrated scenes, and a very self-conscious and self-reflective speaker are incorporated into the cinematic techniques of the film. Donnean themes of self, life, death, and life after death are permeated through the medical story of Vivian Bearing, a distinguished scholar of John Donne and an ovarian cancer patient. Particularly through “Death be not proud,” “If poysonous mineralls,” and “This is my playes last scene,” she articulates her questions and doubts at the last stage of her life, thus inviting the 21st century popular audience to Donnean existential explorations.