When the Spanish invasion force of 1588 met with successful English resistance and disastrous weather, losing thousands of men and 62 of 130 ships, contemporary observers and participants on both sides believed the outcome reflected God’s intervention. English sermons used Bible stories to develop a patriotic and providentialist interpretation of the gathering threat and subsequent Spanish defeat. Sermons before the attempted invasion, by Thomas Drant, Meredith Hanmer, and William Gravet, demonstrate the comparison preachers drew a between Islam and Roman Catholicism (as Spenser created a Muslim sultan to represent the Roman Catholic Spanish threat). Sermons celebrating the English victory, by John Prime, Thomas White, Roger Hackett, and Stephen Gosson, show that Spenser and the preachers drew on the same biblical theme of God’s judgment and motifs of horses, chariot, and hardware.
Edmund Spenser and the first readers of The Faerie Queene routinely heard their national concerns—epidemics, political plotting, recent Tudor history—discussed in biblical terms. This book samples contemporary sermons, homilies, and liturgies to demonstrate that religious rhetoric, with its routine use of biblical types (for Elizabeth, the Spanish threat, and Mary Stuart, among many others) trained Spenser’s original readers to understand The Faerie Queene’s allegorical method. Accordingly, the first three chapters orient the reader to allegorical and typological reading in biblical commentary, occasional liturgies, and sermons. This pulpit literature illuminates many episodes and characters within the poem, and subsequent chapters discuss some of these. For instance, the genealogies Guyon and Arthur discover in Book Two parallel sermon lists of Elizabeth’s kingly forebears as well as biblical commentary on the genealogies provided for Jesus in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Florimell’s adventures in Books Three and Four, like contemporary marriage sermons, develop an allegory of the superiority of marriage over the single state. Likewise, the preachers’ treatment of the Northern Rebellion and the threat posed by Mary Stuart show biblical typology in the service of nationalism, much as the allegory of Book Six finds a way to celebrate Elizabeth’s execution of her cousin. In these cases, as in the Souldan episode, Book Six’s analysis of courtesy, and the Mutability Cantos, Elizabethan religious rhetoric lends support to traditional readings of the poem, indicating that Spenser’s original readers probably found The Faerie Queene less conflicted and subversive than many do today.
Elizabethans thought genealogy offered a key to character, as shown by their analyses of the discrepancies between the lists of Christ’s forebears in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Since spiritual kinship was a criterion for inclu¬sion in such a list, preachers like Richard Curteys and Edwin Sandys demonstrate that Elizabeth’s family tree properly included biblical ancestors. In the chronicle history cantos, Spenser, with a similar concern to capture Elizabeth’s essential nature, provided the queen with spiritually significant ancestors from pre-history and from invention. Awareness of the cultural resources Spenser used in creating (and his first readers used in making sense of) these lists of ancestors relieves us of the burden of distilling a consistent moral and political message from Briton moniments and Antiquitie of Faerie lond.
Allegoresis is interpreting a text written with straightforward literal intent as if it were an allegory. In typology, a literal person or object is treated as an anticipatory example of someone or something to come. The Bible was the most important text subject to this kind of reading, including by New Testament writers. A sampling of commentaries on the parable of the sower (Matthew 13) and the rivalry between Mary and Martha (Luke 10) demonstrates the stability of allegorical readings from the patristic to the early modern era. Although the extent to which the Bible was properly read allegorically was hotly debated in the sixteenth century, even William Tyndale’s practice had much in common with traditional four-fold interpretation. Marginal glosses from the Geneva Bible indicate the general acceptance (and by extension, the transparency) of allegorical reading. Spenser’s use of words like "type," "shadow," "image," and "figure" refer to traditional biblical exegesis, adapting a method familiar to Elizabethans from religious sources.
This chapter examines sermon uses of the image of the sea and the ship to demonstrate that the ocean, for Elizabethans, represented not only a realm of magic and fertility but also the spiritual dangers of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Sermons by Stephen Gosson, Richard Madox, Robert Wilkinson (among others) as well as Geneva Bible illustrations and glosses, provide parallels for Britomart’s lament at III.iv and a key to the moral meaning of the various settings of Florimell’s adventures: her near-rape by the fisherman, imprisonment by Proteus at III.viii-ix, and rescue by Cymoent in IV.xii. The sea setting sharpens the point of narrative references to divine intervention, and the sermons show how these episodes’ sea settings make sense for Spenser’s dramatizing the incompleteness of the single life that propels men and women toward their destiny of married love.
This book is a comparative study of the French and English Catholic literary revivals of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These parallel but mostly independent movements include writers such as Charles Péguy, Paul Claudel, J. K. Huysmans, Gerard Manley Hopkins, G. K. Chesterton and Lionel Johnson. Rejecting critical approaches that tend to treat Catholic writings as exotic marginalia, this book makes extensive use of secularisation theory to confront these Catholic writings with the preoccupations of secularism and modernity. It compares individual and societal secularisation in France and England and examines how French and English Catholic writers understood and contested secular mores, ideologies and praxis, in the individual, societal and religious domains. The book also addresses the extent to which some Catholic writers succumbed to the seduction of secular instincts, even paradoxically in themes which are considered to be emblematic of the Catholic literature.
Cavanaugh's analysis of the secular State indicates the role individualism played in the genesis of contractual political theories. The gathering into the Church envisaged by many French and English Catholic authors sometimes adopts supernatural or enchanted dimensions, especially through their depiction of prophecy, the miraculous and the mysterious sharing of grace between members of the Church. This chapter discusses the themes as they appear in the works of French and English Catholic writers. It encounters their view of the Church as an institution whose very dynamics illustrate their belief in the divine agency continually at work in the material cosmos. Miracles and prophecy, the fruit of some special gift or intervention of God, help enact the Church not hierarchically but charismatically. Vicarious suffering and sainthood provide an ecclesial context for those gifts and, at the same time, portrays most dramatically the unity that can be achieved between individuals.
This chapter aims to explore some of the inner dynamics of French and English Catholic literary revivals in ways that cast more light on the confrontation between secularisation and resistance to it. One possible objection to the critics of secularisation is that the indices of religiosity in society show that secularisation has not occurred, or that it is at the least mitigated. This study provides an analysis of secularisation in which the model of the buffered individual poses two problems for religion when it is considered corporately. The first is that the buffered individual's mind-centred view of reality tends to undermine confidence in a commonly received meaning and purpose in the cosmos. The second is that the buffered individual's capacity for disengagement from this community of knowledge reinforces the model of radical individual autonomy, which Cavanaugh identifies as the basis on which secular politics is constructed.
This chapter sheds light on the paradox of French Catholic literary resistance to secularisation in the period 1880–1914, and on its coincidental parallels among English Catholic writers of the same period. The chapter explores individual secularisation and draws on Charles Taylor's analysis of the immanent frame in which the ‘closed’ or buffered individual treats knowledge as a mind-centred process, meaning as a mind-originated product, and purpose and choice as autonomous or self-directed pursuits. The tendency of Catholic writers to draw on this anti-Enlightenment tradition is even more acute in political matters. Their understanding and portrayal of the Church's capacity to gather its members in a hierarchical fashion correlate strongly with their search for a renewed religious porosity or shared meaning and purpose.
This chapter discusses the ways in which French and English Catholic writers perceive and portray secular society's potential for individualistic fission. This is viewed as a result of the Reformation or the Revolution of 1789 and is encouraged and epitomised by particular groups, notably Jews and Freemasons. The chapter also explores the secularising trends identified by French and English Catholic authors in several important areas of societal life, including politics, economics and education where State centripetalism or State arbitration of individualism had become the modi operandi. These models of contractual society unwittingly establish secular parodies of the Church, both in their assumptions concerning the autonomous individual and with regard to their solution for life in society. Politics and economics are simply not estranged from religion but also unfold in a world invested with divinely ordered meanings and purposes.