Sacred Echoes: Repetitive Prayer and Reformation-Era Poetics in Early Modern England


ACLS Fellowship Program




This project examines the uses of repetition in Reformation-era aesthetics and devotional practice. In this period, polemicists attacked repetitive prayer as stultifying, passionless, and uncreative. Yet the era’s rhetorical poetics valued repetition highly as a means of stimulating intense emotion, engaging the memory, and provoking creative and intellectual reflection. This project uncovers a substantial body of literature that engages the tensions between polemic and poetic practice in order to defend, recuperate, or reform repetitive prayer. Such contestations over repetitive devotion raise questions central to the period about the nature of authentic prayer, the boundaries and character of Catholicism, the recuperation or rejection of the religious past, and literary creativity itself.