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Religious Diversity and Early Modern English Texts

Catholic, Judaic, Feminist, and Secular Dimensions

Edited by Arthur F. Marotti and Chanita Goodblatt

Publication Year: 2013

In Religious Diversity and Early Modern English Texts: Catholic, Judaic, Feminist, and Secular Dimensions, editors Arthur F. Marotti and Chanita Goodblatt present thirteen essays that examine the complex religious culture of early modern England. Emphasizing particularly the marginalized discourses of Catholicism and Judaism in mainstream English Protestant culture, the authors highlight the instability of an official religious order that was troubled not only by religious heterodoxy but also by feminist and secular challenges. North American and Israeli scholars present essays on a wide range of subjects all assumed to be "marginal" but which in a real sense were central to the religious and cultural life of the Protestant English nation. Using critical methods ranging from historical analysis, deconstruction, feminist inquiry, and intertextual interpretation to pedagogical experimentation, contributors offer analyses in five sections: Minority Catholic Culture, Figuring the Jew, Hebraism and the Bible, Women and Religion, and Religion and Secularization. Essays reveal new aspects of familiar texts such as Shakespeare's King Lear, the psalm translations by Sir Philip Sidney and the Countess of Pembroke, Christopher Marlowe's dramas, William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, George Herbert's poetry, Aemelia Lanyer's Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum, and John Milton's Samson Agonistes. They also call attention to works such as the mid-sixteenth-century play The Historie of Jacob and Esau, William Blundell's Catholic antiquarian writing, the series of paintings portraying the religious institute of Mary Ward, and funeral sermons for religiously active women. Contributors show that we cannot understand a culture without attending to its repressed, marginalized, and unacknowledged elements. Scholars of religious, literary, and cultural history will enjoy this illuminating collection.

Published by: Wayne State University Press


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pp. 1-2

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 3-6


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pp. v-vi

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pp. 1-22

In recent work on the religious culture and literature of early modern England, one finds specialized treatments of Catholic culture and texts, of the representation of Jews, of the Hebraic influence on Christian writers, and of women and religion. This collection of essays addresses these topics but also attends to a fifth topic: the relationship of religion to processes...

Part I. Minority Catholic Culture

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1. Marian Verse as Po liti cally Oppositional Poetry in Elizabethan En gland

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pp. 25-54

Queen Elizabeth I had problems with three Marys: first, her monarchical predecessor; second, her cousin from Scotland; and, third, the Virgin Mary, who was venerated by devotees of what English Protestants called “the old religion.”1 Before she became queen, Elizabeth was imprisoned in the Tower by Queen Mary. In the middle of her reign she was politically...

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2. Religious Identity and the En glish Landscape: William Blundell and the Harkirk Coins

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pp. 55-76

As recent scholarship has shown, the dissolution of the monasteries during the reign of Henry VIII radically changed both the English countryside and the representation of that landscape in polemical, chorographical, and imaginative texts. Margaret Aston has argued that the physical devastation of churches, abbeys, and monasteries created a “spectacle of physical...

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3. Remembering Lot’s Wife: The Structure of Testimony in the Painted Life of Mary Ward

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pp. 77-104

I am looking at a capital letter “L” (Figure 1). It belongs to a series of ornamented letters, the so- called “talking letters” (iniziali parlante), produced in the studio of the sixteenth- century Florentine typographer Bartolomeo Sermartelli.1 Sermartelli’s “L” stands for Lot. You can see Sodom in flames on the horizon, to the left of the letter’s spine. Filling the space bounded by...

Color Plates

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pp. 113-114

Part II. Figuring the Jew

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4. Early Mimics: Shylock, Machiavelli, and the Commodification of Nationhood

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pp. 107-135

V. S. Naipaul opens his novel The Mimic Men by describing the fi rst meeting of his protagonist, Ralph Singh (né Ranjit Kripalsingh), with his London landlord, ironically called Mr. Shylock...

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5. Milton, Prophet of Israel

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pp. 136-150

New Canaan, Goshen, Bethel. These are the names of towns in New England, in Connecticut, traces of the fact that the people who founded the colonies thought they were the new biblical Israel and that the land they had come to was Canaan. As John Winthrop said in his famous sermon...

Part III. Hebraism and the Bible

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6. Performance and Parshanut: The Historie of Jacob and Esau

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pp. 153-177

The mid-sixteenth-century play The Historie of Jacob and Esau was originally performed at Westminster Court by the boy choristers of the Chapel Royal.1 Focusing on the biblical narrative in Genesis (chapters 25 and 27) that relates the struggle of Jacob and Esau over the birthright and blessing, the play belongs to the tradition of Reformation biblical drama. Yet it is...

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7. Exploiting King Saul in Early Modern England: Good Uses for a Bad King

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pp. 178-194

Some Americans are old enough to remember when a recently defeated politician snarled at reporters in California that soon “you won’t have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore.” Little did we know. True, kicking kings can be more dangerous than kicking candidates for democratic office, but once the bad ones are safely dead, exploiting their memory can be useful....

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8. Prophetic Voices: Joachim de Fiore, Moses Maimonides, Philip Sidney, Mary Herbert, and the Psalms

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pp. 195-229

In the Defence of Poesy (c. 1581), Sir Philip Sidney (1554– 1586) identifies poetic creativity with the prophetic tradition of David’s Psalms in which preexisting texts considered sacred are translated into edifying ethical and spiritual precepts for the present or are interpreted as prescripted consequences for the future. This conception of prophecy is found in the...

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9. Biblical and Rabbinic Intertextuality in George Herbert’s “The Collar” and “The Pearl”

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pp. 230-248

Although it is a commonplace of Herbert scholarship that there is a strong connection between his verse and the Bible, many scholars have been satisfied to make this observation in passing or else, in some important cases, to detail how specific biblical texts help us to understand Herbert’s works. In most of these instances, however, Herbert’s readers have regarded the...

Part IV. Women and Religion

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10. “This Pretious Passeover Feed Upon”: Poetic Eucharist and Feminine Vision in Aemilia Lanyer’s Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum

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pp. 251-281

Early modern theological disputes over the true significance of the Eucharist grew out of the fundamental differences between Catholics and Protestants in their conceptions of human-made signs and their representation of the Divine. The discourses of religious reformation that shaped the English...

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11. Reading Funeral Sermons for Early Modern English Women: Some Literary and Historiographical Challenges

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pp. 282-308

Edward Rainbowe’s fi nal testimony to the greatness of his subject, Lady Anne Cliff ord, is that a “History” is more appropriate than a “Sermon” to honor “this great wise Woman; who while she lived was the Honour of her Sex and Age.”1 I concur. In what follows I illustrate how a literary-historical study of sermons enables recovery of the lives, experiences, and thoughts...

Part V. Religion and Secularization

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12. Framing Religion: Marlovian Policy and the Pluralism of Art

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pp. 311-329

Cultural historians often turn to the plays of Christopher Marlowe to contextualize the religious tensions between Catholics and Protestants in Elizabethan society and the persecution of other religious minorities on its cultural margins. Such studies, often conducted under the aegis of New...

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13. Shakespeare’s Secular Benediction: The Language of Tragic Community in King Lear

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pp. 330-352

In this essay on King Lear I am responding in part to the recent, widely held notion that, even in the face of skepticism, ethical values continually emerge in the narrative of a community. Among philosophers this idea has been made prominent by Stanley Cavell, Martha Nussbaum, and Richard Rorty, in the late writings of Jacques Derrida, and in the much earlier writings...


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pp. 353-356


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pp. 357-367

E-ISBN-13: 9780814339565
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814339558

Page Count: 376
Illustrations: 15
Publication Year: 2013