Prophecy on the page : the material texts of women’s prophetic discourse, 1640–1660

McGann, Claire and Hinds, Hilary and Carruthers, Jo (2020) Prophecy on the page : the material texts of women’s prophetic discourse, 1640–1660. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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This thesis argues that the production and form of the material text influenced the communication and reception of women’s prophetic discourse in England from 1640–1660. During this turbulent era, claims to divine inspiration enabled hundreds of women to participate in religious and political debate. The resulting discourse, broadly conceived as prophetic, was recorded and published in various print and manuscript texts, allowing readers to encounter the female prophet on the page. This thesis asks: how and by whom were these textual objects produced? Additionally, how might a prophecy’s material textual features – such as its binding, typography and page arrangement ¬– influence a reader’s interpretation of the prophetic message? These questions are explored through four case studies focusing on Grace Cary, Anna Trapnel, Sarah Wight and Eleanor Davies. Over the past forty years, critics have considered the ways in which prophetic texts framed women such as Cary, Trapnel, Wight and Davies as authoritative messengers of God’s word. Much of this scholarship has focused on the signifying role of feminised bodies, since prophetic legitimacy is often associated with corporeal weakness and receptivity to the divine Other. This thesis, however, shifts this critical focus from the body of the female prophet to the body of the text by offering the first extended bibliographic study of seventeenth-century women’s prophecy. This approach enables an extension and reframing of previous understandings of the mediation and authority of women’s spiritual discourse. An analysis of the material text reveals that prophecy’s textual objects frequently contain signs of their co-creation by multiple bodies (including printers and readers) and stage plural interventions across various copies and editions. This thesis argues that these multiple, co-created texts are not neutral mediators. Prophecy on the page is received in ways shaped and revealed by the form and production of its material texts.

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I have uploaded two versions of the thesis: one has the third party images redacted, which have not been cleared for online publication. This is the only version of the thesis that should be shared online. This edited version of the thesis should also be embargoed for 5 years, due to published and forthcoming publications. When I submitted the hard copies of my thesis to be sent to the examiners I provided a hard copy of the 'Thesis Access Declaration Form" signed by my Head of Department to registry. I also have a digital copy of this form, which I would be happy to email over if required.
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22 Jun 2020 08:55
Last Modified:
16 Jul 2024 05:51