'And the Word was made flesh': the problem of the Incarnation in seventeenth-century devotional poetry
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In using the doctrine of the Incarnation as a lens to approach the devotional poetry of seventeenth-century Britain, ‘“And the Word was made flesh”: The Problem of the Incarnation in Seventeenth-Century Devotional Poetry’ finds this central doctrine of Christianity to be a destabilising force in the religious controversies of the day. The fact that Roman Catholics, the Church of England, and Puritans all hold to the same belief in the Incarnation means that there is a central point of orthodoxy which allows poets from differing sects of Christianity to write devotional verse that is equally relevant for all churches. This creates a situation in which the more the writer focuses on the incarnate Jesus, the less ecclesiastically distinct their writings become and the more aware the reader is of how difficult it is to categorise poets by the sects of the day. The introduction historicises the doctrine of the Incarnation in Early Modern Europe through presenting statements of belief for the doctrine from reformers such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Huldryk Zwingli in addition to the Roman Catholic decrees of the Council of Trent and the Church of England’s ‘39 Articles’. Additionally, there is a further focus on the Church of England provided through considering the writings of Richard Hooker and Lancelot Andrewes amongst others. In the ensuing chapters, the devotional poetry of John Donne, Aemilia Lanyer, George Herbert, Robert Herrick, and Richard Crashaw is discussed in regards to its use of the Incarnation and incarnational imagery in orthodox though diverse manners. Their use of words to appropriate the Word, and their embrace of the flesh as they approach the divine shows the elastic and problematic nature of a religion founded upon God becoming human and the mystery that the Church allows it to remain.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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