Gender and reproduction in the Spirituall experiences
in Conversions
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This chapter explores how female authority is connected to the reproduction of religious experience in The Spirituall experiences of sundry beleevers, the first anthology of conversion narratives to appear in print when it was published in 1653. Arguing that the employment of authorial anonymity, coupled with the preponderance of female gender signifiers, foregrounds female experience in such a way as to frame the Experiences as a reproductive object, this chapter identifies how the text encourages a gendered hermeneutics: the reader goes looking for the gender of the convert and more often than not finds a woman. In order to explore the reproductive effects of this gendered bias the chapter looks firstly at how the use of authorial anonymity confers a feminised moral authority upon the text. It moves on to examine the importance of fertility as a spiritual trope for radical Protestants, before considering in detail how the Experiences utilises the symbolic associations of motherhood in a number of narratives composed by women.


Gender and religious change in early modern Europe



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