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Prof. Alison Shell (UCL) ‘Raiment of needlework’: ornament and the church in 17th-century English literature

June 21, 2017, 5:15pm BST - 6:45pm
Queen Mary Centre for Religion and Literature in English, Queen Mary University of London

Graduate Centre room 222
Mile End Road
London E1 4NS
United Kingdom

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The Reformation engendered radical uncertainty about the legitimacy and function of ornament. The Protestant desire to go back to basics, especially in its Calvinist manifestations, sheared away everything that was deemed unnecessary from the fabric of the church, modes of worship and the doctrine underlying that worship; often enough, superfluity was twinned with idolatry. The reaction from this way of thinking brought about Counter-Reformation appeals to the senses, and the liturgical fastidiousness of Laudians and other high-churchmen.  Using a series of case-studies drawn from 17th-century English literature, this paper will explore how, against this background, the very notion of ornament became the focus of ideological instability, doublethink and unease.

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