Pick, Peter Richard (2000)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.
In this thesis I have undertaken a close reading of texts by William Walwyn, Abiezer Coppe and James Nayler. In reading Nayler, I have also engaged with texts by Richard Farnsworth and Richard Baxter. My approach has been to consider these writings in their own terms and right, rather than merely as contextual sidelights on literary or social matters. I believe that all writing expresses aesthetic concerns and social attitudes. I hope my study will contribute to a necessary and continuing project of recovering such voices, so often marginalised and considered either as symptoms of mental disorder, or simply of no literary value. I have applied Bakhtinian perspectives and Discourse Analysis in my readings, although I hope not to the detriment of the writers' own understanding of their work, as I am reluctant to impose ahistorical interpretations on the writings of a previous era. I believe many misunderstandings arise from such procedures. I have not wished to apply a strategic reading to these texts, but rather to recover what they meant for their writers and readers at the extraordinary moment which produced them. I have attempted to integrate them in their own historical context, to explain difficulties arising in their interpretation, to explore their theology and social message, and as far as possible to relate them to the literary history from which they have been largely divorced. The thesis is not intended as a general review of pamphlet literature, of which there are several valuable examples, but as exploration and explanation of specific writings by representatives of the 'Radical Protestant' movements known as Levellers, Ranters and Quakers.
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