Book Series Proteus, vol. 3

The Reformation Unsettled

British Literature and the Question of Religious Identity, 1560-1660

Jan Frans Van Dijkhuizen, Richard Todd (eds)

  • Pages: 246 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Illustrations:4 b/w
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2009

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-52624-9
  • Hardback
  • Available

Late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Britain was officially Protestant but also haunted by its recent Catholic past; this essay collection investigates how this ambivalence is explored in the literary texts of this era.


Recent historical studies have emphasized that the English Reformation can no longer be seen as an inevitable response to abuses within the late-medieval Western ('Catholic') Church. Contrary to Protestant stereotypes, the late-medieval Church catered to the spiritual needs of its members. In addition, the English Reformation was an incomplete process and, even after the Elizabethan Settlement of 1559, English religious culture was full of continuities with the past, with pre-Reformation religious culture only partially displaced. This essay collection investigates how the literature of the first century after the Elizabethan Settlement dealt with this cultural ambivalence. Focusing on a mixture of canonical texts and less well-known ones, the contributors show that the religious hybridity of early-modern England is found in a concentrated form in the literary texts of the period. In contrast to theologians, literary writers were not obliged to choose sides. Literary discourse could confront incompatible doctrinal perspectives within a single text, or forge a hybrid spiritual sensibility out of the competing religious traditions. Literature, sometimes in spite of writers’ avowed denominational allegiances, embraced, explored and deepened the ambivalence of early modern English religious culture in a manner unavailable in other kinds of texts.



List of Illustrations


Part 1: The Poetics and Politics of Religious Identity

'She on the hills': Traces of Catholicism in Seventeenth-Century English Protestant Poetry - HELEN WILCOX

Was Donne Really an Apostate? - RICHARD TODD

'No rule of our beleef'? John Donne and Canon Law - HUGH ADLINGTON

In Thy Passion Slain: Donne, Herbert, and the Theology of Pain - JAN FRANS VAN DIJKHUIZEN

Exorcizing Radicals: John of Leyden Carnivalized - CLAUDIA RICHTER

Part II: The Theology of Word and Image

The Speaking Picture: Visions and Images in the Poetry of John Donne and George Herbert - FRANCES CRUICKSHANK

'Not clothed with engraven pictures': Emblems and the Authority of the Word - BART WESTERWEEL

Part III: Drama and the Politics of Locale

Religion and the Drama of Caroline Ireland - JOHN KERRIGAN

Bare Ruined Choirs: The Monastery as Heterotopia in Early Modern Drama - KRISTINE STEENBERGH

Part IV: Consolation and Remembrance

'These Dear relicks': Abiding Grief in Reformation England - ANDREA BRADY

'For God's inheritance onelye': Consolation and Recusant Identity in Robert Person's Christian Directorie - KEVIN LAAM

'The greatest blow to Antiquities that ever England had': The Reformation and the Antiquarian Resistance - OLIVER HARRIS

List of Contributors