The discernment of angels
in Robert Southwell
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This chapter looks at the development of Southwell's writing during his early years in the Jesuit novitiate, revealing that Southwell's writing matured during his stay in Rome, and following some of his activities there during the late 1570s. It was during this time when he tried – and failed – to enter the Jesuit novitiate. From here the discussion shifts to Southwell's early years in the novitiate, and studies his diary entries in order to determine the impact the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises had on him. This period also marked the beginning of Southwell's new poetic vision, and the chapter studies the effect flagellation (violence to the self) had on his poetry. It shows that most of Southwell's manuscript poetry in English features events from the Gospels, as well as elements of Catholic Mariology or sacramental belief, but also notes that some of his works appear to be bloodier and more visceral.

Robert Southwell

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