Journal Article

‘Now Farewell to the Lawe, too long have I been in thy Subjection’: Early Modern Murder, Calvinism and Female Spiritual Authority

Lynn Robson

in Literature and Theology

Volume 22, issue 3, pages 295-312
Published in print September 2008 | ISSN: 0269-1205
Published online August 2008 | e-ISSN: 1477-4623 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/litthe/frn027
‘Now Farewell to the Lawe, too long have I been in thy Subjection’: Early Modern Murder, Calvinism and Female Spiritual Authority

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A True Discourse of the practices of Elizabeth Caldwell (1604) is a prose murder pamphlet narrating its eponymous ‘heroine's’ attempted murder of her husband and her subsequent trial and execution. Early modern Calvinist theology is used to interpret the narrative and expose interlocking patterns of subjection and authority which invest Elizabeth Caldwell's words (spoken and written) with a spiritual power conventionally denied to women in this period. That such power comes at a lethal price—the articulation of her authority is permissible only as she moves towards the silence of death—is one of the many paradoxes revealed by a close analysis of the pamphlet writer's rhetorical strategies, themselves based on the Calvinist generic narrative framework of early modern prose murder pamphlets. The printed text has, however, overcome the silence imposed by her execution, leaving its articulation of female spiritual authority poised between the imaginative and experiential realms, subject finally to the interplay between writers, readers and genre.

Journal Article.  8294 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Religion and Art, Literature, and Music

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