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The English Martyr from Reformation to Revolution

Alice Dailey

Publication Year: 2012

Traditionally, Christian martyrdom is a repetition of the story of Christ’s suffering and death: the more closely the victim’s narrative replicates the Christological model, the more legible the martyrdom. But if the textual construction of martyrdom depends on the rehearsal of a paradigmatic story, how does the discourse reconcile the broad range of individuals, beliefs, and persecutions seeking legitimation by claims of martyrdom? By observing how martyrdom is constructed through the interplay of historical event and literary form, Alice Dailey explores the development of English martyr discourse through the period of intense religious controversy from the heresy executions of Queen Mary to the regicide of 1649. Through close study of texts ranging from late medieval passion drama and hagiography to John Foxe’s Acts and Monuments, martyrologies of the Counter-Reformation, Charles I’s Eikon Basilike, and John Milton’s Eikonoklastes, The English Martyr from Reformation to Revolution considers the shifting religiopolitical rhetoric of Reformation England. By putting history and literary form in dialogue, Dailey describes not only the reformation of one of the oldest, most influential genres of the Christian West but a revolution in the very concept of martyrdom. In England in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, martyrdom develops from medieval notions of strict typological repetition, she argues, into Charles I’s defense of individual conscience—an abstract, figurative form of martyrdom that survives into modernity. Rather than being a static genre, martyrology emerges in Dailey’s study as deeply nuanced and subtly responsive to historical circumstance.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

Although the work of this book was largely done in solitude, I could not have written it alone. I owe thanks to several institutions and many special people. I am indebted to librarians and archivists across the west ern hemisphere, especially those of the Huntington Library, the Harry Ransom Center...

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Note on Spelling, Punctuation, and Editions

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pp. xv

Although authoritative or scholarly editions have been cited when appropriate, many of the primary materials studied in this volume have not been reproduced in modern editions. In these cases, original editions or...

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pp. 1-9

Father John Gerard was not a martyr, although the course of his life suggested he might be. Born in Derbyshire in 1564 and edu - cated at Exeter College, Oxford, he left England to pursue the Catho - lic priesthood, taking Jesuit orders at the English College in Rome in 1588. He returned to England...

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Chapter 1: Medieval Models

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pp. 10-52

Augustine’s summary of the principal elements of the drama of martyrdom illustrates a defining characteristic of martyr literature that will be revisited time and again through the course of this study: its narrative formula.1 In order for an individual to be inscribed into the transcendent narrative...

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Chapter 2: New Actors in an Old Drama

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pp. 53-97

From its first English publication in 1563 through the early twentieth century, John Foxe’s magisterial Protestant martyrology, Acts and Monuments, was attacked as the work of a consummate propagandist prone to exaggeration and lies. Vitriolic character assaults on individual martyrs and a handful...

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Chapter 3: Secular Law and Catholic Dissidence

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pp. 98-134

For all intents and purposes, England discontinued the punishment of heresy after Queen Mary I’s death, sidestepping the ethical implications of open religious persecution and putting an end to the particular spectacles chronicled by Foxe. The...

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Chapter 4: “The Finger of God Is Heere”

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pp. 135-162

The rupture between typological martyrdom and the secularized persecution of English Catholics mapped in chapter 3 is evident well beyond the literature surrounding Edmund Campion’s death. In one way or another, every English Counter-Reformation martyrology of the period is coded...

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Chapter 5: “This Deceitfull Arte”

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pp. 163-206

The martyrologies of Margaret Clitherow and Edmund Gennings manifest two strategies that Catholics adopted in order to position their subjects outside of the English state’s rhetoric of treason. The Clitherow martyrology rejects and thereby circumvents the treason trial, and the...

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Chapter 6: Beyond Typology

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pp. 207-245

The semiotic rupture between discrete deaths and religious typology in Counter-Reformation martyr texts marks a defining development in English martyr discourse. It is a moment that opens up irreconcilable discrepancies between the executions of English Catho - lic victims and the literary...

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pp. 246-251

Father Mychal Judge was the first officially documented fatality of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. By Archbishop Derderian’s account, Judge was a martyr—unlike Father John Gerard, with whose story this book began.1 Judge was a Franciscan friar and a chaplain with the New York..


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pp. 252-265


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pp. 266-300

Works Cited

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pp. 301-316


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pp. 317-332

About the Author

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pp. 333

E-ISBN-13: 9780268077785
E-ISBN-10: 0268077789
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268026127
Print-ISBN-10: 0268026122

Page Count: 336
Illustrations: NA
Publication Year: 2012