This study examines women’s prophetic writings in seventeenth-century Britain as the literary outcome of a discourse of social transformation that integrates religious conscience, political participation, and gender identity. The following pages approach prophecy as a culture, a language, and a catalyst for collective change as the individual prophet conceptualized it.
While the corpus of prophetic writing continues to grow as the result of archival research, this monograph complements our particular knowledge of women’s prophecy in the seventeenth century with a global assessment of what makes speech prophetic in the first place, and what are the differences and similarities between texts that fall into the prophetic mode. These disparities and commonalities stand out in the radical language of prophecy as well as in the way it creates an authorial centre. Examining how authorship is represented in several configurations of prophetic delivery, such as essays on prophecy, poetic prophecy, spiritual autobiography, and election narratives, the different chapters consider why prophecy peaked in the years of the civil wars and how it evolved towards the eighteenth century. The analyses extrapolate the peculiarities of each case study as being representative of a form of textually-based activism that enabled women to gain a deeper understanding of themselves as creators of independent meaning that empowered them as individuals, citizens, and believers.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Culture of Prophecy in the English Reformation
Defining Seventeenth-century Prophecy
The Woman Prophet and the Religious Culture of Seventeenth-Century Britain
Part 1. Politicum
1 Prophetic Politics and Revolutionary Culture
2 Women’s Prophetic Ministry
3 Confronting Parliament with the Word: The Case for Elizabeth Poole
4 Politically Incorrect Prophecy
Part 2. Protean Feminisms
5 Prophecy and Personal Conscience
6 Exposing the Prophetic Word
7 The Prophetic Poetry of Anna Trapnel
8 Obstat Sexus
Part 3. In-Communications
9 Prophetic Word Vision: Lady Eleanor Davies and Textual Bi-location
10 The Soul’s Flight of Jane Lead
11 Prophecy and the Transmutation of Suffering
12 Prophetic Activism
Conclusion: Old Sectaries, New Prophetesses
Carme Font is Lecturer in English Literature at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain. She is also Research Associate at the UCLA Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies. She has published articles on early modern women writing, and co-edited Mightier than the Spoon is the Pen: Economic Imperatives for Women’s Writing in Europe Before 1800.