The English Radical Imagination: Culture, Religion, and Revolution, 1630-1660

Hardcover | December 1, 2003

byNicholas McDowell

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The English Radical Imagination addresses current critical assumptions about the nature of radical thought and expression during the English Revolution. Through a combination of biographical and literary interpretation, it revises the representation of radical writers in this period asignorant and uneducated 'tub preachers'. This representation has become a critical orthodoxy since Christopher Hill's seminal study, The World Turned Upside Down (1972). Despite the reservations of so-called 'revisionist' historians about the misleading implications of Hill's work, culturalhistorians and literary critics have continued to view radical texts as authentic artefacts of a form of early modern popular culture. This book challenges the divide between 'elite' and 'popular' culture in the seventeenth century. While research has revealed that the rank and file of the more organized radical movements was composed of the lower 'middling sort' of people who had little or no access to the elite intellectualculture of the period, some of the most important and most discussed radical writers had been to university in the 1620s and 1630s. Chapters 1-2 investigate how critics - especially those sympathetic to the radicals - have tended to repeat hostile contemporary stereotypes of the ideologists andpublicists of radicalism as 'illiterate Mechanick persons'. The failure to recognize the elite cultural background of these writers has resulted in a failure to acknowledge the range of their intellectual and rhetorical resources and, consequently, in a misrepresentation of the sophistication ofboth their ideas and their writing. Chapters 3-5 are case studies of some of the most important and innovative radical writers. They show how these writers use their experience of an orthodox humanist education for the purposes of satire and ridicule and how they interpret texts associated with orthodox ideologies and culturalpractices to produce heterodox arguments. Radical prose of the English Revolution thus emerges as a more complex literary phenomenon than has hitherto been supposed, lending substance to recent claims for its admission to the traditional literary canon.

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The English Radical Imagination addresses current critical assumptions about the nature of radical thought and expression during the English Revolution. Through a combination of biographical and literary interpretation, it revises the representation of radical writers in this period asignorant and uneducated 'tub preachers'. This repre...

Nicholas McDowell is a Lecturer in Renaissance Literature and Culture, University of Exeter.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:232 pages, 8.5 × 5.43 × 0.69 inPublished:December 1, 2003Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199260516

ISBN - 13:9780199260515

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Table of Contents

Note on Texts/Abbreviations1. 'Illiterate Mechanik Persons': Writing, Radicalism, and the Dominant Culture2. 'Named and Printed Heretics': Literacy, Heterodoxy, and the Cultural Construction of Identity3. Of Language and Flesh: Power, Pedagogy, and the Intellectual Origins of Leveller Ideas4. 'In a Lunatick Moode': Humanism, Puritanism, and the Rhetorical Strategies of Ranter Writing5. Washing in Cabalinus' Well: Quakerism, Scepticism, and Radical EnlightenmentEpilogue: Milton and the Radical ImaginationBibliographyIndex