Forms of faith

Literary form and religious conflict in early modern England

Jonathan Baldo
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Isabel Karremann
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This book explores a range of literary and theatrical forms as means of mediating religious conflict in early modern England. It deals with the specific ways available to mediate religious conflict, precisely because faith mattered more than many other social paradigms. The first part explores the ways in which specific religious rituals and related cultural practices were taken up by literary texts. In a compelling rereading of the final act of 'The Merchant of Venice', the book investigates the devotional differences informing early modern observances of Easter. Subsequently, it explores the ways in which Christmas provided a confessional bridge uniting different religious constituencies. Goodnight ballads were not only commercially successful pieces of public entertainment but also effective forms of predominantly Protestant religious persuasion. The book's consideration of Elizabethan romance links the literary form to the sacrament of the Eucharist, and argues that the Eucharist debate had an impact on Elizabethan romances. The second part 'Negotiating confessional conflict' provides a rereading of When You See Me You Know Me, exposing the processes of religious reform as an on-going means of mediating the new normality of confessional plurality. It examines the potential of the tragic form by a reading of the play The White Devil, and discusses the ideological fault line in the views of witchcraft. The book also shows that Henry V anticipates later sermons of John Donne that served to promote 'an interrogative conscience'.

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‘The well-crafted essays in this interesting collection share the assumption that the diversity of communicative media in early modern culture—including literary genres, festive practices, and sacramental rituals—helped cultivate a generalized interest in imagining what the thought of “religious pluralization and its irenic potential” (p. 2) might look and feel like in an era officially marked by confessional strife.'
Professor Lowell Gallagher
Studies in English Literature

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