Skepticism and Belief in Early Modern England: The Reformation of Moral Value, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Skepticism and Belief in Early Modern England

The Reformation of Moral Value, 1st Edition

By Melissa M. Caldwell


250 pages

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pub: 2016-09-19
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The central thesis of this book is that skepticism was instrumental to the defense of orthodox religion and the development of the identity of the Church of England. Examining the presence of skepticism in non-fiction prose literature at four transitional moments in English Protestant history during which orthodoxy was challenged and revised, Melissa Caldwell argues that a skeptical mode of thinking is embedded in the literary and rhetorical choices made by English writers who straddle the project of reform and the maintenance of orthodoxy after the Reformation in England. Far from being a radical belief simply indicative of an emerging secularism, she demonstrates the varied and complex appropriations of skeptical thought in early modern England. By examining a selection of various kinds of literature-including religious polemic, dialogue, pamphlets, sermons, and treatises-produced at key moments in early modern England’s religious history, Caldwell shows how the writers under consideration capitalized on the unscripted moral space that emerged in the wake of the Reformation. The result was a new kind of discourse--and a new form of orthodoxy--that sought both to exploit and to contain the skepticism unearthed by the Reformation.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Introduction: Skepticism, Belief, and the English Church

I. The Value of Uncertainty in Reformation England

II. The Histories of Early Modern Skepticism

III. Reclaiming Polemical Literature for the History of Ethics

Chapter 1: Skeptical Polemics?: Erasmian Reform and the Development of Early Tudor Skepticism

I. Criterions of Judgment Before the Reformation

II. Equity, the Third Stoic Paradox, and Emerging Theories of Reform in Utopia

III. The Skeptical Discourses of Reform in the 1520s

IV. Reform and the Uncertain Uses of Fiction

Chapter 2: Print, Probability, and the Changing Nature of Religious Belief in the 1520s

I. Print and the Changing Nature of Belief

II. More’s Textual Skepticism and the Destabilizing Fictions of the Printed Word

III. Normative Fiction and the Assurance of Probability

IV. Print Culture and the Simulation of Consensus

Chapter 3: Richard Hooker and the Value of Doubt in Post-Reformation Ethics

I. The Elizabethan Church and Post-Reformation Ethics

II. Doubt, Adiaphora, and Hooker’s Attack on Sola Scriptura

III. Galen, Contrariety, and Methods of Reform

IV. Hooker’s Skeptical Method of Reform

V. Schism, Pragmatism, and the Emergence of Atheism

Chapter 4: Thomas Nashe, Atheism, and the Problem of Literacy

I. Nashe and the Histories of Skepticism

II. The Preface to Astrophil and Stella, Print, and Nashe’s Writer

III. Misreading Nature: Plain Dealing and the Breakdown of Analogical Thinking in Christs Teares

IV. Atheism and Elizabethan Policy

V. Moral Reform and the Limits of Skepticism

Chapter 5: Native Ears: John Donne and the Reformed Audience

I. The Art of Hearing and the Clouds of Fallibility

II. "Conversion" and the Challenge of Conformity for the Ministry

III. The Sermon and its After-Effects: Skepticism and Personal Devotion

IV. The Epistemology of Conversion

Chapter 6: Skepticism, Toleration, and Moral Action on the Eve of the English Civil War

I. Redefining Adiaphora

II. The Artificial Peace of Forced Conformity

III. Lord Brooke, Adiaphora, and the Rationalist’s Rebellion

IV. Replacing the Moral Guidance of Adiaphora: Miltonic Discipline and Style

V. The Language of Religious Toleration and the Language of Moral Action

Conclusion: English Skepticism and the History of Skepticism

About the Author

Melissa M. Caldwell is Associate Professor of English and Director of Undergraduate Studies at Eastern Illinois University, USA.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh
RELIGION / Christianity / Literature & the Arts
RELIGION / Christianity / Protestant