Charles Green
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‘Now the Lord hath made me a spectacle’
Deathbed narratives and devotional identities in the early seventeenth century
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This essay surveys a cross-section of deathbed narratives printed in English between 1592 and 1646, about individuals from a spectrum of social classes and confessional identities. It has two chief objectives, out of which come two main arguments. The first is to read behind some of these works and into the discursive and polemical contexts that, it is argued, first catalysed their publication. The second is to offer a fresh account of the deathbed narrative as an emergent devotional subgenre that combined many shared features across the confessional divide that gave rise to it (whilst remaining highly expressive of devotional identity): a didactic purpose informed by ars moriendi precedents, a specific narrative arc, inventive and extensive uses of print, and a flexible prose style shaped by a number of biblical, dramatic and literary analogues.

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