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Title: "Being a Lover of the World": Lyric Poetry and Political Disaffection After the English Civil War
Authors: Reade, Orlando
Advisors: Smith, Nigel
Stewart, Susan
Contributors: English Department
Keywords: Love of the World
Lyric Poetry
Political Disaffection
The English Civil War
Thomas Traherne
Subjects: English literature
Issue Date: 2020
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Poetry in the twenty-first century is often associated with a love of the world, involving an admiration for nature and an affection for all of humankind. This is in some respects a recent conception. In Christian scripture, the “love of the world” refers to a state of fatal distraction from God, and Christian theologians have often written discourses against “love of the world,” as an umbrella term for the sinful temptations of secular life. However, in a treatise from the early 1660s, the English poet and theologian Thomas Traherne calls himself “a Lover of the world.” Inspired by the innovative poetry and theology that emerged in Britain during the English Civil War (1642-1651), and its aftermath, Traherne attempted to bring about a revaluation of the love of the world. This dissertation describes how that poetic revaluation happened in response to the fraught religious politics of seventeenth-century England and Wales. It examines the work of three poets who lived through the English Civil War, and the two decades that followed: Henry Vaughan, Katherine Philips and Thomas Traherne. Chapters devoted to each of these poets, ranging widely across their work and their sources, describe how their experiences of political disaffection led them to write poems that were positive, devotional, and ecstatic, expressing a love of the world. Finally, an epilogue discusses Milton’s epic poems in relation to northern European landscape painting, and the use of landscape in poetry as a medium for thinking about the love of the world. The dissertation situates these poets in the long traditions of British and continental poetry, explaining why they chose lyric poetry as a medium for their thinking about the world. It describes poetry’s contribution to a long philosophical debate, from St. Augustine to Hannah Arendt, about whether and how the world is to be loved. It describes their poems as passionate, erudite, polemical and self-questioning responses to political disruptions, theological controversies, new scientific hypotheses, and ancient and early modern philosophy. In doing so, it seeks to show how poets elaborated the love of the world as an innovative, even scandalous, form of life.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:English

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