Kathleen Lynch. Protestant Autobiography in the Seventeenth Century Anglophone World

By Wells, Marion A. | Seventeenth-Century News, Fall-Winter 2013 | Go to article overview

Kathleen Lynch. Protestant Autobiography in the Seventeenth Century Anglophone World


Wells, Marion A., Seventeenth-Century News


Kathleen Lynch. Protestant Autobiography in the Seventeenth Century Anglophone World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. xii+321 pp. $99.00. Review by MARION A. WELLS, MIDDLEBURY COLLEGE.

Protestant Autobiography contributes in a number of important ways to current themes in early modern scholarship. By exploring the social and political contexts of the devotional autobiographical narratives she selects from the politically turbulent years of the seventeenth century Lynch offers an intricately historicized account of the "self" constructed in and through such writings. Lynch's work engages with the ongoing exploration of self and subjectivity in early modern studies, as well as with more recent local explorations of the kinds of life-writing (especially devotional life-writing) that are hard to categorize within traditional genres. In addition, Protestant Autobiography emphasizes the extension of the developments in spiritual autobiography throughout the Atlantic Anglophone world; the book touches down in Bermuda, England, Ireland, and the colonies in North America, deftly weaving together developments in each location and highlighting the complex parallels among them. One of the most interesting issues that the book scrutinizes is the epistemological status of experience. As Lynch puts it in her introduction: "The spiritual experience was a narrated apprehension of an ontological state: I am saved" (28). The book surveys the contested uses of such spiritual experiences, arguing that because "experience is not a historically stable entity" it is necessary to attend closely to the particular cultural circumstances that make certain kinds of experiences validating and authentic (174). It is precisely the range and depth of Lynch's historical sources that bring this challenging project to life in her book.

Chapter One introduces the vexed history of the reception of Augustine's Confessions in the context of the polemics of conversion in 1620s England. The textual history of the translation of this text in English makes for a fascinating lens through which to read the clash between Protestant and Catholic claims to religious authority, and Lynch artfully draws attention to the ways in which the truth claims of Augustine's text became politically contestable during this period. The inclusion of a study of John Donne against Augustine's redactors in this chapter works especially well, given Donne's own conflicted relationship with the politics of conversion. Lynch considers two different kinds of conversions (from one church to another, and from life to death) in her reading of Donne's Pseudo-Martyr (1609) and Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (1624) and the depth of her contextual material gives these somewhat familiar texts a newly complicated resonance. In chapter Two Lynch juxtaposes two very different iconic figures: King Charles, whose Eikon Basilike establishes in exemplary form the political and social function of personal testimonies of belief; and Sarah Wight, "an empty nothing creature" (74) whose nonconformist text The Exceeding Riches of Grace (1674) used personal testimony from a very different platform. Lynch's discussion of Sarah Wight's spiritual authority necessarily engages with an exploration of the role of gender in the generation of personal testimony. The mutual imbrication of narrative, gender, and spiritual authority opens up some fascinating questions, which Lynch begins to address in her discussion of Wight's "embodiment of passive, patient receptivity throughout a time of spiritual trials" (85). As in Chapter Three, where Lynch also includes a discussion of the role of particular women writers, including most prominently the Baptist writer Jane Turner, a more sustained analysis of the role of gender in Lynch's chosen texts would perhaps have been helpful, if only to draw out in more a systematic way the connections between body, self, and narrative that the women writers help to complicate within Lynch's own text. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Kathleen Lynch. Protestant Autobiography in the Seventeenth Century Anglophone World
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.