Stories of God and gall: Presbyterian polemic during the conformity wars of mid-seventeenth-century England and Scotland Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Fann, Julie
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of English and Comparative Literature
  • The first study to analyze Presbyterians' paradoxical positioning in polemical and political contests, this dissertation redefines what it meant to be both moderate and passionate in the Caroline era. This project puts literature, theology, and history into dialogue, illuminating how, why, and when certain kinds of Presbyterianism were perceived as constructive or menacing during the 1630s and 1640s. I explore the processes by which Presbyterianism captured, controlled, and appalled the popular imagination, moving Presbyterianism from the margins to the mainstream and back to the borders again. The most significant, complex, historically dynamic cultural agents of the Wars in the Three Kingdoms, Presbyterians sought to transform the ways in which people worshiped while also attempting to stabilize the implications of this profound transformation for ecclesiastical, social, and political order. The wars were neither inevitable nor coincidental, and Presbyterians were neither revolutionaries nor hypocrites. In the mid-seventeenth century, religious Presbyterian preachers, polemicists, and politicians in Scotland and England were attempting to amend religious and civil society; they promoted institutional changes while defining them as reform. Ultimately, they became victims of their own propaganda. Because Presbyterian policies and appeals were offensive--coercing conformity and demonizing opponents--Presbyterians were perceived as foes even though they sought to amend and edify, not abuse and destroy. Scottish and English Presbyterians of all sorts (jure divino and jure humano) were reformers, but the collapse of their alliances with one another and with other Parliamentarians had radical consequences. After introducing the methodology, stakes, and terms of the project in the first chapter, the second chapter argues that British Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Independents were unified by shared values--truth, order, and godliness--but divided by private priorities. Chapter three explores how moderate Presbyterians, such as Thomas Edwards, could define severe strategies as moderate and charitable. Chapter four clears Presbyterians of charges of hypocrisy by explaining how Presbyterians moved people's affections and stirred people's imaginations to protect them from base pleasures and erroneous opinions. Presbyterians were paradoxical but not hypocritical; they used extreme measures to oppose enormities while striving with sincerity and humility to safeguard souls and society.
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  • In Copyright
  • ... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctorate of Philosophy in the Department of English and Comparative Literature.
  • Matchinske, Megan
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  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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