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Languages: English
Types: Doctoral thesis
Subjects: Q200, Q300, V100
This thesis explores the ways in which seventeenth-century nonconformist writers used the Puritan model of spiritual autobiography to record their individual forms of dissent. Spiritual autobiography is read against the political and religious turmoil that existed in England in the aftermath of the Civil Wars and during the subsequent Restoration. Through a study of four dissenting writers I show how a genre seen usually as a record of spiritual crisis and ultimate reconciliation, was also used as a way of communicating gendered, psychological, domestic, and religious dissent by writers from the extreme margins of society.\ud \ud The argument differs from other studies of spiritual autobiography in that I situate the genre beyond the strict confines of soteriology and adopt an interdisciplinary approach that deploys literary, historical, and theoretical readings. I draw upon the theories of Jean-François Lyotard in order to illustrate a mood analogous to postmodernism apparent in the nonconformist psyche as well as to contextualise the wider dissent shown to exist in the seventeenth century. By applying Lyotard’s concepts of Svelteness, competing Phrase Regimens, and the Differend to spiritual autobiographies by John Bunyan, Agnes Beaumont, Laurence Clarkson, and Richard Norwood this study raises questions with regard to assumptions associated with the genre, the context in which they were written, and so\ud presents new readings of often marginal texts.

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