The English Radical Imagination: Culture, Religion, and Revolution, 1630-1660 - Oxford English Monographs (Hardback)
  • The English Radical Imagination: Culture, Religion, and Revolution, 1630-1660 - Oxford English Monographs (Hardback)
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The English Radical Imagination: Culture, Religion, and Revolution, 1630-1660 - Oxford English Monographs (Hardback)

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£132.50
Hardback 232 Pages / Published: 06/11/2003
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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 as ignorant 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, cultural historians 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 intellectual culture 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 and publicists 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 of both 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 cultural practices 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.

Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 9780199260515
Number of pages: 232
Weight: 451 g
Dimensions: 224 x 143 x 18 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS
...a welcome reappraisal that is helpful, insightful and comprehensive. * Tim Cooper, Historical Journal *
One of the real strengths of this book is the careful and often surprising close textual readings McDowell provides . . . This book opens up new ways if thinking about radical belief in the seventeenth century. . . . McDowell's incisive and well-informed reading of unusual writings helps us to understand how humanism was rejected and adapted in the 1640s . . . This is an exemplary book in its attempt to look backward as well as forward. McDowell explores his subject in a probing and thought-provoking way and offers astute rhetorical analysis. * Jennifer Richards, Criticism 46, 2 *
McDowell's book provides a fresh reading of radical texts as complex literary artefacts, the works of sophisticated and well-read social critics. We can no longer turn to these texts to encounter the voices of unlearned mechanics, and we must revise our conceptions of the audience for whom these texts were written. McDowell succeeds very well in uncovering evidence of high culture in radical texts, but this project is not an end in itself. His larger purpose is to recover a culture shaped by the interaction of "the cultural worlds of the high and the low. * Martha S. Robinson, Renaissance Quarterly, 64, 4 *
Stimulating and subtle book . . . [McDowell] is surely right in claiming that there is much to be learnt about the early modern period, and radicalism in particular, from literary analysis . . . McDowell's literary treatment of radicals - Levellers, Ranters and Quakers - pursues a grand purpose through a specific project . . .[his] recovery of the learning which underpinned the works of at least some radical authors is extremely valuable. * Jason Peacey, Seventeenth-Century News, 62, 3&4 *
McDowell's interesting and learned book The English Radical Imagination might be read as an extended and highly productive dialogue with the work of Christopher Hill . . . Bringing to bear a pleasingly sceptical eye - as well as a great deal of new scholarly work . . . McDowell convincingly demonstrates, here and throughout his book, that radicalism was complex, intellectually demanding, and surprisingly literary . . . this is an impressive book. * John McWilliams, Notes and Queries, 250, 1 *
(McDowell's) thesis . . . is persuasively and eloquently argued and all future accounts of radicalism will have to take account of it.' * Christopher Durston, Journal of Ecclesiastical History 56, 1 *
As [McDowell] points out, Milton was not alone in his combination of high intellectualism and determined radicalsim . . . McDowell has a fine sense of the vitality and inventiveness of some (learned) radicals' attacks on the curricular concerns of schools and universities after a century of humanist dominance had cemented the positions and the approaches of the protestant clergy. A final fascinating chapter suggests how close the university-trained Quaker Samuel Fisher stood to Spinoza and to what was to become English Deism.' * Derek Hirst, Journal of British Studies, 44, 2 *
...this is an impressive book, which is all the better for the fact that it raises the kinds of important questions about the extraordinary middle decades of the seventeenth century. * Notes and Queries *
Within his chosed limits McDowell writes with impeccable scholarship and makes a significant contribution. * Literature and History *
Through a subtle blend of biographical material and literary interpretation McDowell succeeds in building a sustained and at times compelling argument...this is an excellent book * Jon Robinson, Bunyan Studies, Number 12 *

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