Treacherous Faith: The Specter of Heresy in Early Modern English Literature and Culture

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Treacherous Faith offers a new and ambitious cross-disciplinary account of the ways writers from the early English Reformation to the Restoration generated, sustained, or questioned cultural anxieties about heresy and heretics. This book examines the dark, often brutal story of defining, constructing, and punishing heretics in early modern England, and especially the ways writers themselves contributed to or interrogated the politics of religious fear-mongering and demonizing. It illuminates the terrors and anxieties early modern writers articulated and the fantasies they constructed about pernicious heretics and pestilent heresies in response to the Reformation's shattering of Western Christendom. Treacherous Faith analyzes early modern writers who contributed to cultural fears about the contagion of heresy and engaged in the making of heretics as well as writers who challenged the constructions of heretics and the culture of religious fear-mongering.

The responses of early modern writers in English to the specter of heresy and the making of heretics were varied, complex, and contradictory, depending on their religious and political alignments. Some writers (for example, Thomas More, Richard Bancroft, and Thomas Edwards) used their rhetorical resourcefulness and inventiveness to contribute to the politics of heresy-making and the specter of cunning, diabolical heretics ravaging the Church, the state, and thousands of souls; others (for example, John Foxe) questioned within certain cultural limitations heresy-making processes and the violence and savagery that religious demonizing provoked; and some writers (for example, Anne Askew, John Milton, and William Walwyn) interrogated with great daring and inventiveness the politics of religious demonizing, heresy-making, and the cultural constructions of heretics. Treacherous Faith examines the complexities and paradoxes of the heresy-making imagination in early modern England: the dark fantasies, anxieties, terrors, and violence it was capable of generating, but also the ways the dreaded specter of heresy could stimulate the literary creativity of early modern authors engaging with it from diverse religious and political perspectives.

Treacherous Faith is a major interdisciplinary study of the ways the literary imagination, religious fears, and demonizing interacted in the early modern world. This study of the early modern specter of heresy contributes to work in the humanities seeking to illuminate the changing dynamics of religious fear, the rhetoric of religious demonization, and the powerful ways the literary imagination represents and constructs religious difference.

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About the Author:


David Loewenstein is Professor of English at Penn State University - University Park. His books include Representing Revolution in Milton and His Contemporaries: Religion, Politics, and Polemics in Radical Puritanism, which received the Milton Society of America's James Holly Hanford Award. He has co-edited The Complete Works of Gerrard Winstanley and has edited John Milton, Prose: Major Writings on Liberty, Politics, Religion, and Education. With Thomas N. Corns, he is editing Paradise Lost for The Complete Works of John Milton.

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"Loewenstein is to be commended for ranging boldly across the whole period from the 1520s to the 1660s, and being impressively surefooted in the process... The book achieves its twin goals of illuminating the past and speaking to the present." John Coffey, The Seventeenth Century.


"...[A] major study by a leading scholar of religious radicalism in early modern England. ... Treacherous Faith is rich with historical detail and...highly readable." --Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900


"Treacherous Faith is an ambitious, scholarly and compelling survey of the fear of heresy and blasphemy across two centuries. It provides shocking evidence of the effects of that fear on the rhetoric and actions of both Catholics and Protestants. Yet does so from a modern liberal standpoint." --Gerard Kilroy, The Times Literary Supplement


"Throughout Treacherous Faith Loewenstein marshals his wealth of sources admirably, and he has successfully balanced readings of individual authors which will interest author specialists with a more general cultural, political, and religious narrative which illuminates the intricate debates prevalent throughout this tumultuous period in English history." -- Journal of the Northern Renaissance


"In this learned, erudite, and comprehensive study, David Loewenstein shows how fears
of heresy haunted early modern England, a specter aroused by the Reformation's seismic upheavals. ... [An] excellent book...." --Renaissance Quarterly


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Book Description b10703, 2013. Condition: Brand New. Treacherous Faith is a major study of heresy and the literary imagination from the English Reformation to the Restoration. It analyzes both canonical and lesser-known writers who contributed to fears about the contagion of heresy, as well as those who challenged cultural constructions of heresy and the rhetoric of fear-mongering. Seller Inventory # 93

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Book Description Oxford University Press, United Kingdom, 2013. Hardback. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand new Book. Treacherous Faith offers a new and ambitious cross-disciplinary account of the ways writers from the early English Reformation to the Restoration generated, sustained, or questioned cultural anxieties about heresy and heretics. This book examines the dark, often brutal story of defining, constructing, and punishing heretics in early modern England, and especially the ways writers themselves contributed to or interrogated the politics of religiousfear-mongering and demonizing. It illuminates the terrors and anxieties early modern writers articulated and the fantasies they constructed about pernicious heretics and pestilent heresies in response to the Reformation's shattering of Western Christendom. Treacherous Faith analyzes early modern writers whocontributed to cultural fears about the contagion of heresy and engaged in the making of heretics, as well as writers who challenged the constructions of heretics and the culture of religious fear-mongering.The responses of early modern writers in English to the specter of heresy and the making of heretics were varied, complex, and contradictory, depending on their religious and political alignments. Some writers (for example, Thomas More, Richard Bancroft, and Thomas Edwards) used their rhetorical resourcefulness and inventiveness to contribute to the politics of heresy-making and the specter of cunning, diabolical heretics ravaging the Church, the state, and thousands of souls; others (forexample, John Foxe) questioned within certain cultural limitations heresy-making processes and the violence and savagery that religious demonizing provoked; and some writers (for example, Anne Askew, John Milton, and William Walwyn) interrogated with great daring and inventiveness the politics ofreligious demonizing, heresy-making, and the cultural constructions of heretics. Treacherous Faith examines the complexities and paradoxes of the heresy-making imagination in early modern England: the dark fantasies, anxieties, terrors, and violence it was capable of generating, but also the ways the dreaded specter of heresy could stimulate the literary creativity of early modern authors engaging with it from diverse religious and political perspectives. Treacherous Faith is a major interdisciplinary study of the ways the literary imagination, religious fears, and demonizing interacted in the early modern world. This study of the early modern specter of heresy contributes to work in the humanities seeking to illuminate the changing dynamics of religious fear, the rhetoric of religious demonization, and the powerful ways the literary imagination represents and constructs religious difference. Seller Inventory # BTE9780199203390

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