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The Queen Mary Centre for Religion and Literature in English

Seminar 2016

1 June 2016: Dr Alison Searle (Sydney), ‘Spirit and Body in Seventeenth-Century English Nonconformist Women’s Writing’

This paper will examine the spiritual and corporeal experience of nonconformist women in seventeenth-century England as recorded in their diaries, letters, biographies and prophecies, focusing specifically on the role attributed to the Holy Spirit. Subjects will include Briget Cooke, Mary Franklin and Anne Wentworth amongst others.

15 June 2016: Dr Cecilia Muratori (Warwick), ‘ “Public Highway to the Perfect Regeneration”: Jacob Böhme in Christopher Walton’s Theosophical Library’

The theosophical library of Christopher Walton (1809-1877) contains many books by and on the German mystical philosopher Jacob Böhme (1575-1624), alongside notes on the reception of Böhme in England and even drawings to elucidate his complex work. Walton built up his theosophic collection (amounting to around 1000 items) by purchasing books at public auctions as well as from the heirs of one of the most famous English readers of Böhme, William Law (1686-1761). With the intention of keeping the collection open to the public, Walton’s theosophic library was donated to Dr Williams’s Library at the time of Walton’s death, and in fulfilment of his wish it was (and still remains) catalogued separately.

This paper will discuss the aims of this section of Walton’s collection, showing that it was designed both to assist with interpreting Böhme, and to serve as an aid for English speakers for whom Böhme’s original writings were inaccessible. The paper will also show that this collection sheds light on the reception of Böhme in England in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with special regard to the networks of both English and German readers of Böhme that operated in London.

6 July 2016: Dr Veronica O’Mara (Hull), ‘Saints’ Lives for East Anglian Nuns: From the Medieval Period to the Eighteenth Century’

This paper will focus on a collection of twenty-two Middle English saints’ lives from the end of the fifteenth century that are currently being edited by Virginia Blanton (University of Missouri-Kansas City) and Veronica O’Mara (University of Hull). These lives, all but two of which concern women, are a complex mixture of native English and international saints whose sources may be partly identified. They survive in a single manuscript that was owned in the eighteenth century by a recusant family in Norfolk, a family that sent its daughters to be professed on the continent in the post-Dissolution period. This unique collection, which may be associated with a range of East Anglian convents and was at one time owned by a member of the royal family, provides links between medieval Catholic England and eighteenth-century England, between Norfolk and the capital, between Europe and England.