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Protestant readings of the Whore of Babylon in early modern England, c.1580–1625
Victoria Brownlee

Early modern scholarship has accepted the Whore of Babylon's popularity and synonymy with Catholicism, and her evocation within discourses of anti-popery has been acknowledged in studies of Catholicism and discussions of dramas set in southern Europe. For Protestants, reading the Whore of Babylon was central to a broader attempt to create and maintain a strict opposition between the opposing factions of Christianity. Martin Luther declared the Whore's Roman Catholic identity by including a woodcut depicting her in the papal tiara in his 1522 New Testament. This interpretation gained credibility among reformers on the continent, it accrued similar respect and popularity in England through the work of John Bale, John Foxe and Heinrich Bullinger. Richard Bernard's instructions demonstrate that the reformers did not abandon their commitment to the literal but instead accepted a form of literalism that was, paradoxically, figural.

in Biblical women in early modern literary culture 1550–1700

This book considers how biblical women were read, appropriated and debated in a wide range of early modern texts. It traverses a range of genres and examines literature written by a variety of confessionally diverse writers. By considering literature intended for assorted audiences, the book showcases the diverse contexts in which the Bible's women were deployed, and illuminates the transferability of biblical appreciation across apparent religious divisions. The book has been split into two sections. Part One considers women and feminine archetypes of the Old Testament, and the chapters gathered in Part Two address the New Testament. This structure reflects the division of Scripture in early modern Bibles and speaks to the contemporary method of reading the Bible from the Old Testament to the New Testament. In spite of this division, the chapters regularly make cross references between the two Testaments highlighting how, in line with the conventions of early modern exegesis, they were understood to exist in a reciprocal relationship. Within each section, the chapters are broadly organised according to the sequential appearance of the women/feminine archetypes in the Bible. The biblical women studied extend from Eve in Genesis to the Whore of Babylon in Revelation. The chapters vary between those that examine dominant trends in appropriation to those that consider appropriations of a particular interest group or individual.

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Discovering biblical women in early modern literary culture, 1550–1700
Victoria Brownlee and Laura Gallagher

This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book considers how biblical women were read, appropriated and debated in a wide range of early modern texts. It considers the complex ways in which biblical women were positioned as both positive and negative exemplars. The book investigates the 'intersection' by unravelling the rhetorical potential of the Bible's women across political, cultural, gendered and theological discourses. It seeks to build on the developing corpus of work by locating the Bible's more familiar women, such as Eve, Mary and Mary Magdalene, alongside their less familiar but nonetheless significant, counterparts such as Zipporah, Michal and Esther. The book addresses a particular biblical woman or archetype of femininity. It offers a purview of the diverse ways in which the women of the Old and New Testaments were read and represented in early modern England.

in Biblical women in early modern literary culture 1550–1700
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Reading Old Testament women in early modern England, 1550–1700
Victoria Brownlee and Laura Gallagher

The Old Testament's pages weave together the stories of mothers, daughters, wives and queens, as well as female prophets, judges and military leaders, who shape biblical history. Biblical women were mobilised in the period's domestic writings. In Genesis, the bodies and decisions of women, such as Sarah, Rebecca and Rachel, enable the establishment of the Israelite nation. While Rebecca may indeed be understood to figure Elizabeth in Jacoband Esau, it was the Old Testament judge Deborah who was more commonly used to celebrate, and authorise, the authority of England's Queen. Identification with the speaking women of the Bible was an important authorising tactic of early modern women writers, and the prayer of Hannah, as well as the songs of Miriamand Deborah, acquired particular resonance. Tracing 'Womens words' across the Old Testament, Fell lays claim to a biblical tradition of female preaching that has been appropriated by men.

in Biblical women in early modern literary culture 1550–1700
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Reading New Testament women in early modern England, 1550–1700
Victoria Brownlee and Laura Gallagher

The use of New Testament women to consider the relationship between an individual and God is more forcefully revealed in early modern readings of Anna. In The glory of women, Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa lists countless Old Testament women who assert pre-eminence over men, but the New Testament compilation is slight by comparison. Arguably, it was Jesus' mother Mary who was among the most discussed, and debated, New Testament women of the early modern period. The mother of Christ, Mary continued to have a literary presence in England throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, even after reformers destroyed the Marian statues and other physical reminders of her medieval cult. Beyond the Gospels, women from other books of the New Testament also receive attention from early modern writers, including Sapphira, Dorcas (Tabitha), Lydia and Priscilla who appear in the Book of Acts.

in Biblical women in early modern literary culture 1550–1700