By Scott Paul Gordon
Difficult fresh paintings contending that seventeenth-century English discourses privilege the concept of a self-enclosed, self-sufficient person, this examine recovers a counter-tradition that imagines selves as extra passively caused than actively identifying. Gordon strains the origins of such principles of passivity from their roots within the non-conformist spiritual culture to their flowering in a single of the primary texts of eighteenth-century literature, Samuel Richardson's Clarissa.
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Extra info for The Power of the Passive Self in English Literature, 1640-1770
Are plain and sufficient in themselves” suggest that each individual’s reason alone can know that which is necessary for salvation. Milton’s belief that, in Hill’s words, “reason possesses an illumination superior to Scripture” depends on his confidence that the Spirit guides the reason: only one who “has the spirit, who guides truth” can properly read Scripture. Milton insists that “we believe in the whole scripture because of that Spirit which inwardly persuades every believer,” a formulation that makes reason the effect of a prior cause.
His reference to himself as an “Instrument” drowns in a sea of self-assertion: The Power of the Passive Self Dear breathren and sisters, I speake . . with thankfullnesse and glory to him who made me so usefull an Instrument in this blessed worke of Reformation. For (beloved) it was I that jugled the late King into the Isle of Wight, it was I dissolved the Treaty, it was I that seized upon and hurried him to Hurst Castle, It was I that set Petitions a foote throughout the Kingdome against the Personall Treaty, and for bringing the King, and other Capitall offenders to Justice, It was I that contriv’d with the help of my sonne Ireton the large Remonstrance of the Army, It was I that prescribed the erecting of the high Court of Justice, and which brought the King to his Tryall: In a word, it was I that cut off his head .
It is difficult to find faiths visible during the Civil War that abandon the doctrine of grace and its primary metaphor for subordinating agency, the passivity trope. Even those mid-century writers who abandon Scripture, the move that epitomizes the deists’ rejection of the doctrine of grace, never do so in the belief that each individual can discover through reason the necessary truths about God. Mid-seventeenth-century radicals – Quakers, Ranters, Familists, Behemists, Winstanley – abandon Scripture without abandoning the model of the prompter.
The Power of the Passive Self in English Literature, 1640-1770 by Scott Paul Gordon