This introduction begins by examining recent work that emphasises the fluidity across supposed definitional or categorical boundaries, especially on the grounds of devotional or spiritual expression, within early modern Protestantism. It helps to break down the idea that categorical definitions based on creed can sometimes be misleading where personal and devotional lives might be more revealing. It then moves to outlining the unifying themes, sites and concerns surrounding ‘devotional identities’ as explored across the essays in this volume. Ultimately, English Protestantism is shown to be at once segregational and social, fixed in principle yet fluid in practice.
The interpretive generosity of The Temple and the capacity for its appeal to consistently cross denominational and political boundaries are the matters explored in this essay. In past assessments of Herbert’s reception during the mid-seventeenth century, there has been a strong focus on how writers took inspiration from him as a way of responding to the English Civil War within their religious lyrics, as in the cases of Henry Vaughan and Christopher Harvey. This essay not only brings to light new examples that can contribute to the conversation surrounding how Herbert’s poems were transformed by loyalist and dissenting readers, but also shows that we have neglected two other key areas where Herbert’s poems were appropriated within this context: prose texts and poetic forms. By broadening our understanding of how the appeal of The Temple can be understood within other forms of writing by Herbert’s admirers, and by examining their appropriative strategies, it is possible to elucidate new detail concerning the roles that Herbert played in the expression of devotional identities during the 1640s–50s.
Scriptural patterns and model piety in the early modern sickchamber
Robert W. Daniel
This essay explores how the acts and attitudes during infirmity, in manuscript and printed accounts by both men and women during the seventeenth century, were often theologically cohesive. Patients demonstrated a precise and widely shared biblicism – that is to say, they used the same scriptures – in their sickbed writings. This created a common devotional identity that ran across denominational, social and political lines, and at times crossed the confessional divide. By identifying and examining these shared scriptural patterns, one sees how the ill incorporated broad and attested doctrinal behaviours during their illnesses. This essay also demonstrates how popular sickbed piety was as likely to reject as to reflect the devotional models espoused in printed ‘how-to’ manuals.
Deathbed narratives and devotional identities in the early seventeenth century
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.
Murderers, martyrs and the ‘sacred space’ of the early modern prison
This essay examines how early modern prisons in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries could sometimes serve as sacred spaces. Through an engagement with elite and popular texts, this research draws the frequent connection between profane incarceration and the consecration of space achieved by an individual’s pious actions: self-examination, religious conversation, praying, reading and writing. It further posits that prison texts themselves, that recorded these devotions, might have been read more than other traditional Protestant works, thus propelling godliness across thresholds: from the prison into the booksellers, and finally into the home.
In 1615 the clergyman Jeremiah Dyke exclaimed ‘surely wee never beginne to know Divinitie or Religion, till wee come to know our selves’. His clarion call, and the ‘devotional turn’ in early modern historiography, urges us to look anew at how ordinary men and women lived out their faith in painstaking and sometimes painful ways. People and Piety is an interdisciplinary edited collection that investigates Protestant devotional identities in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England. Divided into two sections, it examines the ‘sites’ where these identities were forged (the academy, printing house, household, theatre and prison) and the ‘types’ of texts that expressed them (spiritual autobiographies, religious poetry and writings tied to the ars moriendi), providing a varied and broad analysis of the social, material and literary forms of religious devotion during England’s Long Reformation. Through archival and cutting-edge research, a detailed picture of ‘lived devotion’ emerges. From the period’s most recognisable religious authors (Richard Baxter, George Herbert, Oliver Heywood and Katherine Sutton) to those rarely discussed and recently discovered voices (Isaac Archer, Mary Franklin and Katherine Gell), this book reveals how piety did not define people; it was people who defined their piety. Contributors include internationally recognised scholars from either side of the Atlantic: Sylvia Brown, Vera J. Camden, Bernard Capp, John Coffey, Ann Hughes, N. H. Keeble and William Sheils. To those studying and teaching religion and identity in early modern England, and anyone interested in the history of religious self-expression, this book will be a rich and rewarding read.
Working with the understudied writings of the ‘little academy’ convened by the Ferrar family at Little Gidding (c.1631–33), this chapter explores how oral, handwritten and printed discourse became devotional by the grace of God and in the presence of God. Drawing on a hybrid blend of Humanist, post-Calvinist and Arminian influences, the Ferrars’ cerebral musings foraged the past to feed their present, as part of a cycle of theological, social and textual reappropriation. This research challenges and complements current thinking about the materiality of devotional culture. It also provides a unique insight into the trajectory of devotional endeavours from minority to mainstream, and how these were dissected and assimilated by the industrious learners at Little Gidding.
Grief and passion in the devotional poetry of Richard Baxter
Published in the year of his wife Margaret’s death, Poetical Fragments (1681) was linked to the dissenting clergyman Richard Baxter’s ‘sorrows and sufferings’ as a bereaved husband, but also those of his wife stretching back to when she was a member of his flock in need of spiritual consolation, and finally those of the ‘near Friends in Sickness, and other deep Affliction’ of the title page. In both the Poetical Fragments and later Additions (1683), Baxter made a special plea for ‘passions’ as a key part of devotional identity: they were both the motive for spiritual song and an essential for spiritual life, without which ‘it will be hard to have any pleasant thoughts of Heaven’. This essay explores how ‘passions’ applied to the evolving devotional identity of Baxter himself and how Baxter used personal loss to present to his readers a new kind of practical divinity: consolation – of self as much as others – through a poetics of the ‘passions’.
This chapter investigates the political theology of development in South Korea through an analysis of trends in popular and media culture in the context of its unique circumstances vis-à-vis modernity, which scholars have dubbed ‘compressed modernity’. It focuses on the cultural production of ‘development citizenship’, which demands self-reliance and resilience for the sake of national development. It argues that the recent upsurge in discourse and media associated with solitude, including reality TV programs on living alone, mukbang (a portmanteau, which translates to ‘eating broadcast’), and drinking alone, serves to prioritise the concerns of the nation and its agenda for development through methods that can be understood as both theological and mediatised.
Shaping the body-politic via institutional charisma
This chapter investigates the religiopolitical nexus innervating the genesis of socio-political modernity by challenging Eurocentric benchmarks and bias. It does so by employing methodologies of historical sociology with the help of a critical reconstruction of categories of social theory. One of the primary fields of historical sociology concerns how the modern state has emerged and taken form since the Late Middle Ages. The chapter studies the process through the lenses of ‘political theology’ – and via the analysis of the influence of religious knowledge, symbols, and ‘charisma’ on state-formation. It focuses on Islamicate cases drawn from Western, Central, and South Asia. The resulting de-centred view of the religiopolitical nexus as articulated ‘East of Westphalia’ shifts the focus from the Leviathan-centred model of sacral and corporate sanctioning of sovereignty toward Asian Islamicate patterns relying on a religious charisma providing cohesion to assemblages of circles and networks.