Theses Doctoral

“Blest Be the Architect”: Church-Building in Foxe, Spenser, Lanyer, and Herbert

Fore, Kathryn Carol

My dissertation examines the imagery of church building in early modern English literature. It spans from Henry VIII’s Dissolution of monastic houses in the 1530s to the poetry of George Herbert in the 1630s, and traces the influence of theological writings, architectural history, and religious doctrine on the formation of a formal thematic element. In studies of architectural images that appear in English literature after the Dissolution, the focus is often on ruins, which are read as a representation of anxiety about the lastingness of literary works in the wake of the vast social upheavals of the Reformation. However, given the importance of the Resurrection and redemptive history to the English Church in the early modern period, ruination in a religious context can also symbolize eternal redemption. To that end, I trace images of churches in disrepair in early modern poetry, and examine how those images are used by the authors to rebuild figuratively their subject following personal or political loss, and through that activity, to defend their work’s effectiveness. I first examine the theological and historical associations of the church as a space of communal redemption in the English Church, and how those associations become thematic features in John Foxe’s seminal Actes and Monuments (1570). I then examine manifestations of this theme in three major Protestant poetic works: Edmund Spenser’s lament for Philip Sidney in The Ruines of Time (1591), Aemilia Lanyer’s praise of the disinherited Margaret Clifford in Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum (1611), and George Herbert’s pastoral struggles in The Temple (1633). In excavating the redemptive connotations of church imagery in these works, I demonstrate how early modern English authors borrow from church practice and narrative to craft their own literary identities and purposes.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
English and Comparative Literature
Thesis Advisors
Stewart, Alan
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
September 9, 2017