Writing at the edge of the promises : negotiating the puritan apocalypse
It is now almost thirty years since puritan apocalyptic thought was first subject to academic analysis, and twenty years have passed since the last flowering of texts on this subject. Since then our understanding of the puritan movement has progressed, and theoretical trends within historiographical and literary thinking now require new approaches to the investigation of puritan ideology. The approach of our own millennium and the recent devolution of barriers between academic disciplines make timely an investigation of the theological, historical and literary developments within puritan apocalyptic thought. Writing at the edge of the promises: negotiating the puritan apocalypse offers a reading of texts and contexts from the Marian exile, in the 1550s, to the Glorious Revolution one hundred and thirty years later. Canonical texts (like the works of John Milton and John Bunyan) are situated alongside titles representing individuals and groups which have achieved less prominence in recent literary-critical narratives (John Foxe, the Geneva Bible, James Ussher, George Gillespie, and John Rogers). This juxtaposition highlights the variety of eschatologies within the 'puritan apocalypse' and illustrates the many uses to which these eschatologies were put. Underpinning the variety of the puritan apocalyptic enterprise, however, is a basic exploration of the Calvinist aesthetic maxim: finitum non est capax infiniti. This unity of aesthetic thought represents a new angle on the 'Calvin and the Calvinists' debate, and argues for a basic continuity in the reformed theologies of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Similarly, the interplay of ideas and values across the boundaries of each of the 'three kingdoms' offers hope for discovering the value of Scottish writing in the notoriously silent seventeenth century. Far from dampening artistic exploration, as the received orthodoxy of Scottish studies argues, Calvinistic eschatological thought is presented as the catalyst for some of the most intriguing of post-Renaissance literary strategies.