Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Writing and Religion in England, 1558-1689: Studies in Community-Making and Cultural Memory

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Writing and Religion in England, 1558-1689: Studies in Community-Making and Cultural Memory

Article excerpt

Writing and Religion in England, 1558-1689: Studies in Community-Making and Cultural Memory. Edited by Roger Sell and Anthony Johnson. (Farnham, Surrey, and Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate, 2009, Pp. xiii, 498. $124.95.)

The twenty essays in this book cover an extraordinary range of material - from classical allusions in The Faerie Queene (1596) to the non-juring high church Toryism of the L'Estrange and North families. In between are fascinating excursions into the connections between theater and religion (in Thomas Rists' essay on Shakespeare), Laudian devotional literature (by Graham Parry), and Aristotelian philosophy in seventeenth century Padua. While all of these essays have, to one degree or another, a historical bent, they are by scholars of literature.

Historians will, however, profit by reading these chapters, both for their insight into the works they discuss and their historical context. Doing full justice to such a rich variety of topics in a brief review is hardly possible, but perhaps the best place to begin is with the editor's introduction. This chapter does a fine job of identifying the common themes which run through the book. The most important of these is the use of literature as a tool in the creating (and demarking) of community. There are many communities on display here, mostly, though not exclusively, defined by religious belief. Separatists, Puritans, Independents, Laudians, and Roman Catholics all make appearances here, arguing with one another, denouncing one another, and, at times, co-opting each other. Some of the authors being studied here use their work to define themselves, as do the separatists mentioned in Alan Sells' essay, "Varieties of English Separatist and Dissenting Writings." Others, however, use their work to erase or blur established boundaries, as did John Cosin in his 1627 Collection of Private Devotions. His use of Catholic imagery, suggests Graham Parry, implicitly acknowledged Rome's legitimacy (though not its inerrancy) - precisely the implication to which Puritans such as William Prynne took strident offense. Some of the works considered here erase multiple boundaries: Helen Wilcox's chapter on George Herbert's The Temple (1633) demonstrates that work's popularity across the religious spectrum, from Laudian Anglicans to Fifth Monarchists. …

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