The Persecutory Imagination: English Puritanism and the Literature of Religious Despair

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9780198117810: The Persecutory Imagination: English Puritanism and the Literature of Religious Despair
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Innumerable men and women in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were gripped by the anxiety, often conviction, that they were doomed to go to hell. This condition of mind was commonly enmeshed with such circumstances as parental severity, social exclusion, and economic decline, which seemed to give cogency to a Calvinist theology specializing in the idea of rejection. This book investigates how a menacing discourse compounding theology and social experience constructs subjectivity and shapes texts. Looking at a variety of sources, including puritan autobiographies and works by Bunyan, Burton, Donne, Marlowe, and Milton the book challenges both the assumption of authorial autonomy and the emollience toward protestant culture that have informed most literary studies of the period.

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