Flesh and Spirit

An anthology of seventeenthcentury women’s writing

This anthology makes accessible to readers ten little-known and understudied works by seventeenth-century women (edited from manuscript and print) that explore the relationship between spiritual and physical health during this period. Providing a detailed and engaging introduction to the issues confronted when studying women's writing from this period, the anthology also examines female interpretations of illness, exploring beliefs that toothache and miscarriage (and other complications involving pregnancy) could be God's punishments, but also, paradoxically, that such terrible suffering could be understood as proof that a believer was eternally beloved. Many of the extracts in the anthology present illness as an important part of women's conversion, confirming their religious beliefs, but some women interpreted bodily dysfunction as the result of the Devil's temptations, in some cases leading them to practise starvation and attempt suicide. Unlike many previous studies of seventeenth-century women's writing, this anthology considers both religious and medical contexts for the works, demonstrating the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to studying them, and these contexts are both discussed at length in the book's introduction. Each of the ten extracts also has its own introduction, highlighting relevant contexts and further reading, and is fully annotated.

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