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Title: Prophetic rhetoric in the early Stuart period
Author: Jennings, Emily
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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This is a study of the political prophecy in England in a period delimited by the accession of King James I (1603) and the end of the Interregnum (1660). It combines the analysis of hitherto obscure manuscript texts with that of printed works to provide a nuanced account of the uses and reception of prophecies in this period. Chapter One (which focuses on the first decade of James's reign) and Chapter Two (which covers the period 1613-19) approach the analysis of dramatic treatments of political prophecy through the study of prophecy both as a rhetorical buttress to the Jacobean state and as a protest genre. Attentive to the elite bias of the legal documents wherein allegedly oppositionist uses of prophecy are recorded, these chapters heed the counsel of historians who have found literary scholars insufficiently suspicious of the rhetoric of these materials. A focus on dramatic texts, neglected by the historians, reveals that Jacobean playgoers were encouraged to regard both official prophetic rhetoric and official rhetoric about prophecy with scepticism. Chapter Three considers how native and continental prophetic traditions were expanded and repurposed in England around the beginning of the Thirty Years' War, when belief in the purportedly inspired status of prophecies was rare but recognition of their utility as a vehicle for political discussion was nonetheless widespread. Chapter Four explores the adaptation and tendentious exposition of medieval, sixteenth-century, and Jacobean manuscript prophecies in printed propaganda for both the royalist and parliamentarian causes in the mid-seventeenth century. This study of literary and archival sources finds that previous scholarship has overestimated the extent of popular faith in the authenticity of allegedly ancient and inspired prophecies in the early Stuart period. The longevity of purported prophecies, it concludes, was ensured through the recognition, appreciation, and exploitation of their rhetorical affordances.
Supervisor: Kean, Margaret Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: English literature--Early modern ; 1500-1700--History and criticism ; Prophecy in literature ; Politics and literature--Great Britain--History--17th century ; Literature and society--Great Britain--History--17th century ; Great Britain--History--Stuarts ; 1603-1714