‘We goe to heaven against each others wills’
Revising Religio Medici in the English Revolution
in Aesthetics of contingency
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Literary historians long considered Thomas Browne uninterested in the great events of his day. While more recent scholarship has revised this picture, it has tended to place the famous Dr Browne on the wrong side of a conflict between conservatives and radicals. This chapter begins by re-examining the relations between and among writing, politics, and class in revolutionary England, emphasising the fluidity of the ideological context in which Browne’s meditation was first written and published. The second part of the chapter traces the processual character of Browne’s text, that is, the multiplicity of material forms and circumstances in which his Religio Medici might have been encountered, and the various interlocutions that soon attached themselves to it and mediated its meanings. Finally, it seeks to reconstruct the religious subject and the spiritual politics constituted out of the text’s distinctive rhetorical form. Stepping out provisionally, with a sense of limitation, with a sense of style, this chapter argues, Religio Medici brilliantly addresses itself to the heresy of certainty under which Browne saw the Stuart church beginning to buckle.

Aesthetics of contingency

Writing, politics, and culture in England, 1639– 89

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