Pain and Compassion in Early Modern English Literature and Culture

Pain and Compassion in Early Modern English Literature and Culture

Jan Frans van Dijkhuizen





An examination of the themes of pain and compassion in key Renaissance writers, at a time when religious attitudes to suffering were changing.
"A deeply original work of scholarship. Through fine close readings of primary and secondary texts, the author offers the fullest account we have of the related phenomena of pain, sympathy, and sensation in early modern culture." Michael Schoenfeldt, John R. Knott, Jr., Professor of English, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

In late medieval Catholicism, pain was seen as a way of imitating Christ, and as an avenue to salvation. During the early modern period, Protestant theologians came to reject these assumptions, and attempted to redefine and circumscribe the spiritual meaning of suffering. The rethinking of the meaning of pain during the early modern era is the central theme of this book. The author pays particular attention to how literary writers explored the issue of pain, by placing their work in a broad context of devotional, theological, philosophical and medical texts on suffering. In detailed readings of Alabaster, Donne, Herbert, Crashaw, Lanyer, Spenser, Milton and Montaigne, he shows that early modern culture located the meaning of pain in its capacity to elicit compassion in others - yet the nature of this compassion was also fiercely contested.

Dr Jan Frans van Dijkhuizen is Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Leiden.


November 2012
14 black and white illustrations
288 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Studies in Renaissance Literature
ISBN: 9781843843306
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
BISAC LIT019000, LIT004120
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Table of Contents

Early Modern Religious Discourses of Pain
Religious Pain from Alabaster to Donne
The Theology of Physical Suffering in Herbert
Poetry and the Passion of Christ in Crashaw and Lanyer
Pain, Compassion and Community from Spenser to Milton
Pain and Compassion in the Essais of Montaigne


Timely and illuminating.... An intelligent and thought-provoking book that opens up many avenues for further research. MODERN LANGUAGE REVIEW

An excellent and thought-provoking book. STUDIES IN ENGLISH LITERATURE 1500-1900

Wonderfully wide-ranging. ... One wonders why a study of this kind has not appeared earlier. ... Van Dijkhuizen does a consummate job of meeting the more historically focussed requirements of his project while also hinting at further areas of investigation. REVIEW OF ENGLISH STUDIES

(This) excellent study of pain and compassion in early modern English literature and culture will be of great interest to all scholars concerned with the relationship between embodiment and its various cultural codings. RENAISSANCE QUARTERLY

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