Marketing Salvation: Devotional Handbooks for Early Modern Householders

  • Author / Creator
    Shirkie, Amie L.
  • 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.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Department of English and Film Studies
  • Specialization
    • English
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Brown, Sylvia (English and Film Studies
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Snook, Edith (University of New Brunswick, English)
    • Lemire, Beverly (University of Alberta, History and Classics)
    • Gay, David (University of Alberta, English and Film Studies)
    • Bowers, Rick (University of Alberta, English and Film Studies)
    • Demers, Patricia (University of Alberta, English and Film Studies)