Honey from the Lion: Interpretation and Religious Persecution in Early Modern English Autobiography Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Curtin, Kathleen Robin
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of English and Comparative Literature
  • In Judges 10, Samson finds the corpse of a lion filled with honey, and from this experience, he crafts a riddle. For writers from a variety of confessional backgrounds, Samson's paradox of honey in the lion evokes the mysterious and multilayered nature of religious persecution. Just as Samson frames this meeting of contraries as an interpretive puzzle, so also sufferers struggle to ascribe meaning to early modern religious conflict. While martyrologies and histories tend to reduce religious persecution into two-dimensional clashes between polarized perspectives, autobiographies reveal the multidimensional nature of this experience as a crisis of identity and interpretation that unfolds not only between religious groups, but within the mind, imagination, and will of the sufferer himself. In chapters on Thomas More's Dialogue of Comfort, John Bale's Vocacyon, John Donne's Devotions, Toby Mathew's True Historical Relation, and John Bunyan's Grace Abounding, I situate these individuals' interpretive processes in the context of early modern debates about how to interpret the shared meaning-making resources inherited from the medieval church, including church history, tradition, the sacraments, and Scripture.
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  • Barbour, Reid
  • Doctor of Philosophy
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  • 2013

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