The vernacular devotional literature of the English Catholic community, 1560-1640
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The Catholic community of post-Settlement England relied upon devotional literature to sustain the faith of individuals who were generally deprived of the sacraments and contact with Catholic clergy. Increasingly, these books were used not only to promote Catholic spirituality, but to encourage greater fidelity and loyalty to the Catholic church. The genre is represented by texts which vary greatly and which accommodated a wide and disparate audience with different devotional requirements and even with varying degrees of attachment to the Catholic faith. The period was one of tremendous religious literary activity on the Continent and those who were involved in the production and distribution of Catholic literature drew heavily upon the spiritual books which were issuing in such great numbers from the commercial presses in France and the Netherlands. Translating the devotional works of the spiritual masters of the day proved to be a tremendously effective way of providing English readers with books of orthodox devotion, while at the same time drawing the isolated community into the wider world of Catholic renewal. Providing Catholic devotional texts to a persecuted audience under tremendous pressure to conform very often drew that audience into the fray of controversy and the quarrel of religious disputation. The line between devotion and controversy was thin and often crossed, and devotional books were frequently used as a method of promoting not only Catholic spirituality, but Catholic loyalty as well. Thus, these books, like other devotional artefacts, were considered dangerous to the religious - and political - stability of England. In the contemporary situation these devotional books were clearly regarded as effective tools for maintaining Catholicism in England, both by those who produced them and by those who sought to destroy them. The study of these books can help us to appreciate that important role and the place of devotional literature in the wider context of confessional conflict.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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