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Marketing Salvation: Devotional Handbooks for Early Modern Householders Open Access


Other title
Thomas Bentley
Book of Common Prayer
Abraham Fleming
history of the book
Anne Wheathill
church history
16th century
early modern
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Shirkie, Amie L.
Supervisor and department
Brown, Sylvia (English and Film Studies
Examining committee member and department
Bowers, Rick (University of Alberta, English and Film Studies)
Gay, David (University of Alberta, English and Film Studies)
Demers, Patricia (University of Alberta, English and Film Studies)
Lemire, Beverly (University of Alberta, History and Classics)
Snook, Edith (University of New Brunswick, English)
Department of English and Film Studies
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
My doctoral dissertation examines early modern English devotional handbooks, which were designed to instruct the laity on the tenets of the Protestant religion and help them navigate the religious upheavals of the sixteenth century. As part of their wide-ranging efforts to educate the laity, reformers collaborated with printers to create vernacular books of private prayer and doctrinal instruction. Although many devotional handbooks were composed by members of the clergy, the affordability of print and the accessibility of vernacular scripture empowered laymen and women to transform themselves into authors, as they selected prayers and marked their favorite passages, even composing devotional handbooks of their own. Adapting the model of a communications circuit, I explore the production, circulation, and use of devotional handbooks, tracing the connections between authors, who were also readers and sometimes directly involved in the printing of their prayer books, printers, and readers, who, in the act of using and marking their books and composing prayers of their own, fused the circuit by becoming authors. I expand my analysis of the sociology of devotional handbooks by taking into account early modern expectations of gender and performance. In chapter one, “Abraham Fleming and the Development of a ‘Godly’ Rhetoric,” I examine the collaboration between Abraham Fleming, prolific translator, author, and ‘learned corrector’ and Henry Denham, one of the period’s most renowned printers of devotional material. In chapter two, “Thomas Bentley and the Feminine ‘Face of the Church Militant,’” I explore the political and religious agenda of Thomas Bentley, author and compiler of The Monument of Matrones (1582) and the performative possibilities his prayers open up to his women readers. Chapter Three, “Anne Wheathill’s Spiritual Medicine from ‘the garden of Gods holie word,’” demonstrates how Anne Wheathill used her devotional reading to create prayers of her own in A handfull of holesome (though homelie) hearbs (1584). In my final chapter, “The Practice of Piety,” I expand on my theoretical analysis of early modern reading and writing practices in a survey of readers’ marginalia in devotional handbooks.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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