• Spaces of Religious Retreat in Seventeenth-Century English Literature and Culture

      Miller, Shannon; Miller, Nichole E.; Kaufmann, Michael W., 1964-; Gamer, Michael (Temple University. Libraries, 2014)
      Religious spaces are inextricably bound to the seventeenth century's most challenging theological and epistemological questions. In my dissertation, I argue that seventeenth-century writers represent specifically religious spaces as testing grounds for contemporary theological and philosophical debates about the material foundations of religious knowledge and the epistemological foundations of religious community. By examining how religious concerns shape the period's construction of literary spaces, I contend that religion's developing privacy reflects this previously unexamined conversation about religious knowledge and communal belief. My focus on the central theological and philosophical ideas that shape these literary texts demonstrates how this ongoing conversation about religious space contributes to the increasingly individuated character of religious knowledge at the beginning of the long eighteenth century and shapes the history of religion's social dimension. I explore this conversation in two distinct parts. I first examine those writers who contend with new sensory and experiential bases of religious belief as they represent dedicated religious spaces. After considering how Nicholas Ferrar's family pursues religious knowledge through dedicated religious spaces, I argue that John Milton's Paradise Regained evaluates competing bases of religious knowledge through an extended debate about religious space and knowledge. Finally, I contend that Margaret Cavendish transforms an imagined convent space into an argument that nature serves as the sole source of religious knowledge. In the second part, I examine writers who contend with the social consequences of individual accounts of religious knowledge. The sequel to John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress articulates the writer's struggle to reconcile an individual epistemology with the concerns of the religious community. Like Bunyan, Mary Astell seeks to unify individual believers with her proposal for a rationally persuasive Cartesian religion. Finally, William Penn relies on the solitary space of the conscience in his advertisements for Pennsylvania. As these writers seek to reconcile the individual's role in the production of religious knowledge with religion's social manifestations, they associate religious belief and practice with increasingly private, bounded constructions of space. These complex articulations of religion's place in the world play a significant role in religion's developing spatial privacy by the end of the seventeenth century.