Meditative textual practices in England, 1661 – 1678

Clifton, Thomas ORCID: 0000-0003-2173-0187 (2023). Meditative textual practices in England, 1661 – 1678. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis examines late seventeenth-century meditation as a textual practice in manuscript and print. It considers textual meditations, prayers, scriptural paraphrases, letters, memoirs, and verse, which appear in miscellanies in the period of the Cavalier Parliament, 1661 – 1678. It argues that texts were essential to meditative practice, and these texts were composed either for the practitioner or with distinct readerships in mind. Therefore the project examines the complex and shifting triad of writer, reader, and text in each instance. In addition, it shows how notions of completion, privacy, publication, literariness, and singular authorship are not fully compatible with the iterativity of the textual practices associated with meditation.

The study considers five meditative writers, found across social and confessional spectra: Katherine Austen, John Flavel, Elizabeth Delaval, Susanna Hopton, and Thomas Traherne. Each writer collates and composes texts – originated by themselves and others – into their miscellanies; and – often over long periods of time – edits, amends, or repurposes these texts according to individual circumstance. The writers deploy diverse devotional practices and textual genres including emblem, romantic fiction, and essay. Each chapter shows how differently these writers realise the general pattern described by the thesis

The thesis offers a new appreciation of the diversity of meditative practices and the textual practices associated with them. It challenges earlier perceptions of meditation as an isolated, private, devotional practice, and of meditative texts as a separate literary product of meditative thought. The thesis describes meditation as a textual habit of thought, and a rich source of knowledge, which underpinned, theological, mercantile, social, and philosophical thought. In addition, the thesis demonstrates the value of interpreting meditative texts in their material, textual, biographical, and cultural contexts, and offers a reassessment of the critical and contemporary values placed on verse and prose forms in devotional writing.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and Creative Studies, Department of English Literature
Funders: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BV Practical Theology > BV1460 Religious Education
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BX Christian Denominations
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0441 Literary History
P Language and Literature > PR English literature


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