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Prayer and Performance in Early Modern English Literature
Gesture, Word and Devotion


Brian Cummings, Graham Parry, Joseph William Sterrett, Chloe Preedy, Alison Findlay, Christopher Hodgkins, Simon Jackson, Efrosini Botonaki, Katrin Ettenhuber, Helen Wilcox, Robert Wilcher, Donald Dickson, Noam Reisner
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  • Date Published: October 2018
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108429726

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About the Authors
  • Early modern England was a nation alive with intense religious debate, with often violent results. Central to these debates were questions of prayer, questions powerful enough to splinter the English church and to fuel a ferocious civil war. This collection of thirteen newly commissioned essays traces the controversy and value given to the performance of prayer, through the body, the spoken word and written text, as well as its representation on stage. Through close readings of the works of Christopher Marlowe, William Shakespeare, John Donne, John Milton and Henry Vaughan amongst others, this book examines the performative aspects of prayer in a range of literary modes. This broad range of study is expanded further with chapters focussing on the private religious diaries of men and women throughout the seventeenth century, and the convergence of music and prayer in the work of William Byrd.

    • Delivers a fascinating new angle on the history of the Reformation in England and the literature and drama that developed in its wake
    • Provides close readings from a variety of literary and dramatic sources, from well-known figures including Shakespeare, Donne and Milton, to the private prayer books of men and women of the seventeenth century
    • Places the act of prayer, and the literature surrounding it, centrally in a work of early modern literary criticism
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Here, a range of voices deliver fresh insights in concentrated bursts that make for stimulating reading.' William T. FitzGerald, Bunyan Studies

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    Product details

    • Date Published: October 2018
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108429726
    • length: 286 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 158 x 20 mm
    • weight: 0.54kg
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    1. Prayer, bodily ritual and performative utterance: Bucer, Calvin, and the Book of Common Prayer Brian Cummings
    2. The tradition of High Church Prayer in the seventeenth century Graham Parry
    3. Performed prayer and sixteenth-century non-conformism Joseph William Sterrett
    4. Enter Mercury, sleeping: delivering prayers on the early modern stage Chloe Preedy
    5. Prayer, performance and community in early modern drama Alison Findlay
    6. Playing at prayer: the spiritual failure of performance in Hamlet Christopher Hodgkins
    7. Prayer and musical performance: the verse anthem Simon Jackson
    8. The Protestant diary and the act of prayer Efrosini Botonaki
    9. Prayer in context: the dynamics of worship in Donne's Encænia Sermon (1623) Katrin Ettenhuber
    10. 'Your suit is granted': performing prayer in early modern English poetry Helen Wilcox
    11. 'The Royal Actor': King Charles I and the performance of prayer Robert Wilcher
    12. Vaughan's devotional prose as political act and prayer Donald Dickson
    13. 'The spirit of prayer inspired': invocation as prayer in Milton's poetic imagination Noam Reisner.

  • Editor

    Joseph Sterrett, Aarhus Universitet, Denmark
    Joseph William Sterrett is Associate Professor of English Literature at Aarhus Universitet, Denmark. He is the author of The Unheard Prayer: Religious Toleration in Shakespeare's Drama (2012) and the co-editor, with Peter Thomas, of Sacred Text-Sacred Space: Architectural, Literary and Spiritual Convergences in England and Wales (2011).


    Brian Cummings, Graham Parry, Joseph William Sterrett, Chloe Preedy, Alison Findlay, Christopher Hodgkins, Simon Jackson, Efrosini Botonaki, Katrin Ettenhuber, Helen Wilcox, Robert Wilcher, Donald Dickson, Noam Reisner

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